By Miriam Raftery
“This is a moment of truth, a moment to reflect on our values -- values of decency, respect, and compassion -- and call this president to account for his treatment of others.” – Andrea Guerrero, Alliance San Diego
January 13, 2018 (San Diego) – The Washington Post, citing multiple sources, reported Friday that during a meeting with several Senators meant to hammer out bipartisan immigration legislation, President Donald Trump made a vulgar racial remark. “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” the President reportedly said of immigrants from Africa, Haiti, and El Salvador.
He then suggested that the U.S. needs more immigrations from countries like Norway, which is predominantly white. As for including protections into the bill for Haitians who came to America as refugees after hurricanes and an earthquake devastated their island nation, Trump added, “Take them out.”
The president later claimed he didn’t use those exact words but admitted his tone was “tough.” At a meeting with black leaders, he later refused to answer questions on the matter but did not deny his choice of words.
At least one Senator, Dick Durbin, a Democrat, went on record to confirm that the President did use the word repeatedly, which others had confirmed off record to the Post. Durbin also indicated that one Republican Senator, Lindsay Graham, spoke up in the meeting to object to the President’s words.
Senator Graham has issued a statement confirming, “Following comments by the President, I said my piece directly to him yesterday. The President and all those attending the meeting know what I said and how I feel. I’ve always believed that America is an idea, not defined by its people but by its ideals…Diversity has always been our strength, not our weakness. In reforming immigration, we cannot lose these American Ideals.” He added pointedly, “I appreciate Senator Durbin’s statements and have enjoyed working with him and many others on this important issue. I believe it is vitally important to come to a bipartisan solution to the immigration and border challenges we face today.”
Two other Republican Senators, Bob Godlatte and Tom Cotton, claimed they didn’t recall the President’s exact words.
The President’s comments and attitude have sparked a storm of controversy globally and locally.
United Nations human rights spokesman Rupert Colville denounced Trump’s remarks as "shocking and shameful" and undeniably "racist."
While Trump is not the first president to utter a profane word, his remark differs from predecessors who directed curse words at a specific individual with whom they disagreed or in Lyndon Johnson’s case, at chicken salad he disliked. Trump’s tarring of an entire continent (Africa) populated by primarily blacks, as well as Haiti and El Salvador, home to predominantly black and Hispanic people, follows his long pattern of denigrating people of color – from his past remarks suggesting Mexican immigrants were “rapists” to his urging crowds at his campaign rallies to beat up black protesters, to his refusal to dispatch appropriate aid to Puerto Rico still suffering black-outs months after a hurricane.
CNN reporter Anderson Cooper, who covered Haiti during past natural disasters, choked back tears in a broadcast report in which he described the courage and heroism shown by Haitians rescuing others. “"Let me be clear.... the people of Haiti have been through more, withstood more, fought back against more injustice... than our President ever has,” Cooper said bluntly.
Locally, Alliance San Diego Director Andrea Guerrero denounced Trump’s comments as “reprehensible” adding, “Like statements he has made throughout the year, these statements encourage others to vilify immigrants and people viewed as different. This has consequences and affects people’s lives.” She added, “This is a moment of truth, a moment to reflect on our values -- values of decency, respect, and compassion -- and call this president to account for his treatment of others. Now is the time to stand firmly and fiercely in the values that hold us together. This is the most powerful way to honor the legacy of Dr. King and every trailblazing leader that has carved the path to building the Beloved Community with integrity and courage.”