Top Republicans say they do not remember President
Donald Trump making “shithole countries” comment.
During several interviews on Sunday, Republican
senators blasted Sen. Dick Durbin, who confirmed reports that
Trump made the “shithole” remarks.
Top Republicans and administration officials dodged questions
about whether President Donald Trump used the word “shithole” to
describe Haiti and African countries during a meeting with top
senators about immigration earlier this week.
Trump has denied that he used that specific word in the meeting,
which was first reported by The
Washington Post, and then confirmed by other outlets.
But during interviews on the Sunday political talk shows,
administration officials and Republicans who attended the meeting
denied knowing whether the phrase was used.
During an interview on Sunday, Fox News Sunday anchor Chris
Wallace said he did not believe Department of Homeland Security
Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen’s claim that she didn’t remember Trump
“using that exact phrase.”
“I can understand you either saying they were said or they were
not said,” Wallace said. “It is pretty shocking language, and to
say I do not recall seems implausible. If the President of the
United States used the word “blank-hole” talking about countries
in the Oval Office, or didn’t say it, I would know.”
“I understand the
question,” Nielsen replied. “It was an
impassioned conversation. I don’t recall that specific phrase
being used, that’s all I can say about that.”
Other Republicans attempted to discredit the claim by criticizing
Sen. Dick Durbin, who attended the meeting and said Trump
described Haiti and countries in Africa as “shithole countries.”
Though Sen. David Purdue, a Georgia Republican, said on Friday
that he could not recall Trump’s characterization, he repeatedly
dismissed questions about whether Trump used the description,
saying Trump “did not use that word.”
Purdue also blasted the Illinois Democrat, pointing out that
likely mischaracterized comments a House Republican made to
President Barack Obama in 2013.
“This is a gross misrepresentation, it’s not the first time
Senator Durbin has done it, and it is not productive to solving
the problem that we have at hand,” Purdue told ABC on Sunday.
In an interview on “Face the Nation,” Sen. Tom Cotton also said
he didn’t hear Trump’s comments, and criticized Durbin — though
when pressed by “CBS This Morning” host John Dickerson, the
Arkansas senator confusingly refused to answer whether Durbin was
“I didn’t hear that word either, I certainly didn’t hear what
Senator Durbin has said repeatedly,” Cotton said. “Senator Durbin
has a history of misrepresenting what happens in White House
meetings, so perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised by that.”
Top Democrats expressed outrage over Republicans’
characterization of Durbin.
In a tweet on Sunday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer
praised the Illinois senator.
To impugn @SenatorDurbin‘s integrity is disgraceful. Whether you agree with him on the issues or not, he is one of the most honorable members of the Senate.
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) January 14, 2018
Further, other Republicans have backed the reporting and Durbin’s
claim that Trump made the “shithole” comments.
Speaking to ABC shortly after Purdue’s interview, Sen. Jeff Flake
said he heard directly from people who attended the meeting that
Trump did call several countries a “shithole.”
“They said those words were used before those words went public,”
Flake said. “So that’s all I can tell you is I heard that account
before the account even went public.”