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African Union demands apology from Donald Trump for 'racist' slur

The US President has denied making the comment, though he admits that his language had been “tough”.

Image: PA Images

HAITIANS AND AFRICANS have reacted angrily after US President Donald Trump reportedly referred to their nations as “shithole countries”, with many accusing the US president of racism and ignorance.

The 55-nation African Union condemned the remarks, while a statement from ambassadors of all countries from the continent at the United Nations demanded a retraction and apology.

The Haitian government also reacted angrily, as some media reports said that Trump singled out its citizens during the meeting by asking: ”Do we need more Haitians?”

Hours later, Trump denied ever saying “anything derogatory” about the people of Haiti.

“Made up by Dems,” he tweeted. “I have a wonderful relationship with Haitians!”

But the government of Haiti – which yesterday marked the eighth anniversary of a devastating earthquake that killed at least 200,000 people – declared itself “outraged and shocked” by the “racist” slur.

Denials

Trump tweeted a convoluted denial early yesterday about the comments allegedly made on Thursday at a White House meeting with lawmakers on immigration reform.

“The language used by me at the DACA meeting was tough, but this was not the language used,” Trump said, apparently referring to the remarks quoted by The Washington Post and The New York Times.

But Democratic Senator Dick Durbin – who was present at the meeting – publicly pushed back, saying Trump had repeatedly used “vile and racist” language.

Trump Immigration Senator Dick Durbin speaks at a news conference yesterday. Source: Kiichiro Sato via PA Images

Thursday’s White House huddle was held to discuss a bipartisan deal that would limit immigrants from bringing family members into the country, restrict the green card visa lottery and boost border security, in exchange for shielding hundreds of thousands of young people known as “Dreamers” from deportation.

Trump scrapped an Obama-era program that gave the 800,000 young immigrants legal protection, setting a March deadline for Congress to offer a fix – though it has been reinstated by a court, for now.

After lawmakers raised the issue of protections for immigrants from African nations, Haiti and El Salvador, the president reportedly demanded to know why the United States should accept immigrants from “shithole countries,” rather than – for instance – wealthy and overwhelmingly white Norway.

African Union

Trump’s reported comments also drew a unanimous condemnation from the African Group of UN ambassadors, which said it was “extremely appalled” at the “racist and xenophobic remarks.”

The group called for a retraction and apology, and also expressed concern at what it described as the “growing trend from the US administration” to “denigrate the continent and people of color.”

The State Department was left scrambling to contain the damage, with a top official saying that – while Trump denies using the language attributed to him – diplomats had been briefed to convey Washington’s respect if summoned to explain themselves, as they were in Haiti and Botswana.

US missions went into damage control mode. The embassy in South Africa said the United States “deeply respects” the people of Africa, and “there has been no change in our dedication to partners & friends across the continent.”

Furious

Trump’s language triggered a barrage of criticism from both Democrats and Republicans.

Congressional Black Caucus Chair Cedric Richmond and House Judiciary top Democrat Jerrold Nadler said they would seek to introduce a censure resolution against Trump next week.

“We have to show the world that this president does not represent the feelings of most of the American people,” they said in a statement.

The resolution could be embarrassing for Trump if Republican leaders of the lower house allow a vote on it.

Hillary Clinton, Trump’s 2016 Democratic presidential rival, took to Twitter to blast his “ignorant, racist views of anyone who doesn’t look like him.”

Some Republicans were also plainly unhappy, with House Speaker Paul Ryan describing the reported comments as “very unfortunate” and “unhelpful.”

Mia Love, a Utah congresswoman of Haitian descent, called them “unkind” and “divisive” while South Carolina’s Tim Scott, the only black Republican senator, said if Trump really did use those words, it would be “disappointing.”

In praise of Martin Luther King

DC: Trump Signs MLK, Jr. Day Proclamation Source: PA Images

In an oddly-timed coincidence, the US president signed a declaration honouring slain civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr yesterday, three days before the federal holiday celebrated in his honour.

Ignoring shouted questions about the mounting firestorm over race, the president paid tribute during a ceremony to the reverend’s “peaceful crusade for justice and equality.”

Nevertheless, the uproar has revived attention on previous remarks by Trump that have ignited accusations of racism.

Trump earned national political prominence by promoting the falsehood that Barack Obama, America’s first African-American president, was not born in the United States.

He has characterised Mexican immigrants as “rapists,” repeatedly questioned the loyalty of Muslim immigrants, denounced NFL players for kneeling during the national anthem in protest at police brutality against African-Americans, and made questionable comments about a violent white supremacist rally.

Trump’s remarks had a particularly glacial reception from Norwegians, whom he reportedly upheld as shining examples of the immigrants he wants to come to America.

“The only thing that would attract me to emigrate to the US is your vibrant multicultural society. Don’t take that away,” declared Jan Egeland, a former UN under-secretary-general and the current head of the Norwegian Refugee Council.

Trump’s latest comments provided ample fodder for talk-show hosts.

South African comedian Trevor Noah, star of “The Daily Show”, described himself as an offended citizen of “South Shithole” and also criticised Trump’s preferred choice of Norway for immigrants.

“He didn’t just name a white country, he named the whitest – so white they wear moon-screen,” he said.

© AFP, 2018

Read: Donald Trump ‘s***hole countries’ comment slammed as ‘racist’ by UN

Read: ‘My people came from a place Trump would call a s***hole country – Ireland’

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