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At first they said they didn’t recall. Now, they say it didn’t happen.
For days, President Donald Trump has been under intense scrutiny after he reportedly referred to Haiti, El Salvador, and African nations as “shithole” countries and suggested the U.S. should be accepting immigrants from countries like Norway instead. Now, however, some of Trump’s Republican allies are insisting he never said that word.
On Thursday, hours following the explosive report, Senators Tom Cotton and David Perdue both claimed that they “did not recall” Trump making the racist remarks. Now, both are taking a more assertive stand, with Cotton claiming he “did not hear derogatory comments about individuals or persons” on CBS’ Face The Nation on Sunday, and Perdue claiming Trump “did not use that word” and calling the story a “gross misrepresentation” on ABC’s This Week.
"I did not hear derogatory comments about individuals or persons, no," said @SenTomCotton , who was in the Oval Office where Mr. Trump questioned why the US would accept more people from "sh*thole countries," according to IL Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin. https://t.co/Av60YYfesp
— Face The Nation (@FaceTheNation) January 14, 2018
Also appearing on ABC on Sunday morning, National Review editor Rich Lowry―who has defended the president’s disdain for accepting immigrants from the countries he insulted―gave a differing account of what was said in the meeting. Namely, he claimed Trump used a slightly different obscenity, but one that doesn’t in any way meaningfully change the content of his remark.
Cotton, for his part, accused Sen. Dick Durbin, who first confirmed Trump’s comments, of having a “history” of misrepresenting remarks in White House meetings, and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul told Meet The Press it was “unfair” to call Trump a racist on the basis of the reported slur.
It’s worth noting that the racism accusation against Trump is not rooted solely in his use of the term “shithole,” or for that matter, “shithouse.” Rather, it’s because he made those derogatory remarks about nations with populated predominantly by people of color while insisting the U.S. should be welcoming immigrants from Norway, which has an overwhelmingly white population.
Sens. Cotton and Perdue on Thursday: “we don’t recall it.”
Perdue today: “He didn’t say it.”
Cotton today: “Well, I didn’t hear it.”
— Brian Taff (@briantaff6abc) January 14, 2018
After Trump’s remarks were reported on Thursday, the White House’s response included no denial that he’d made the offensive comment. Trump himself, however, insisted that “shithole” was “not the language used” in a tweet after the controversy had erupted.