In a discussion about immigration from African nations, Mr. Trump asked why he would want “all these people from shithole countries,” according to people with direct knowledge of the conversation. Mr. Trump also said the United States should admit more people from places like Norway, an overwhelmingly white country.
“Why do we need more Haitians?” Mr. Trump said, according to several news accounts, including The Washington Post. “Take them out.”
The White House has not denied his use of racially charged rhetoric.
“I cannot believe that, in the history of the White House in that Oval Office, any president has ever spoken the words that I personally heard our president speak yesterday,” Mr. Durbin said on Friday.
At an event in Wisconsin on Friday, Speaker Paul D. Ryan described Mr. Trump’s comments as “very unfortunate” and “unhelpful.” Mr. Ryan went on to recall his own relatives immigrating to the United States from Ireland.
After Mr. Trump signed the proclamation for Martin Luther King Jr. Day later on Friday morning, the president ignored a question from a reporter about whether he is a racist.
In an earlier tweet on Friday, Mr. Trump said, “The language used by me at the DACA meeting was tough, but this was not the language used.” His tweet did not elaborate on what “tough” language he used and did not provide a specific account of the meeting.
The president’s Twitter posts on Friday morning referred to the meeting with lawmakers a day earlier about the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, the Obama-era effort that provided temporary work permits and reprieves from deportation to immigrants brought to the United States as children by their parents.
Mr. Trump’s reported remarks are the latest example of the president’s use of racially tinged language about immigrants. In a private meeting in June of last year, Mr. Trump said immigrants from Haiti “all have AIDS.”
The president’s first Twitter post Friday morning did not address the language he used, but instead called the immigration deal that would protect undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as children “a big step backwards.”
Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Republican from Florida, criticized Mr. Trump’s comments about Haitians.
“Language like that shouldn’t be heard in locker rooms and it shouldn’t be heard in the White House,” Ms. Ros-Lehtinen said in a Twitter post.
The president’s thoughts on immigration sprawled through several Twitter posts on Friday morning before he tweeted his denials about some of the language he used at the DACA meeting.
The president met on Thursday with Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, and Mr. Durbin. The senators are working to codify the protections in DACA.
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