Republican Rep. Mia Love has condemned Donald Trump’s comments describing Haiti and African nations as “s–thole countries,” calling the president’s words racist.
Love, a Utah lawmaker who is the first Haitian-American to serve in the Capitol, said Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union that she “can’t defend the indefensible” when it comes to Trump’s reported comments.
“You have to understand that there are countries that struggle out there but … their people are good people and they’re part of us,” said Love, the daughter of Haitian immigrants.
Asked if she thought Trump’s remarks dismissing Haiti, El Salvador and African nations as “s–thole countries” were racist, the congresswoman replied that they were.
“I think they were, yes. I think they were unfortunate,” she said. “I wasn’t in the room. I know the comments were made. I don’t know in which context they were made.”
“I’m looking forward to finding out what happened, but more importantly, I’m looking forward to fixing the problem,” she added. “We have to hold ourselves to a higher standard.”
Trump has faced widespread backlash over his comments, which came Thursday during a bipartisan immigration meeting with lawmakers.
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The White House initially did not deny that the president made the remarks, but as criticism mounted from members of Congress, Trump claimed Friday that he didn’t use the vulgar language.
“The language used by me at the DACA meeting was tough, but this was not the language used,” Trump tweeted. “What was really tough was the outlandish proposal made — a big setback for DACA!”
Sen. Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat who attended the meeting along with other lawmakers, said Friday that he heard Trump repeatedly refer to African countries as “s–tholes” in the meeting.
As the lawmakers discussed immigrants from El Salvador, Honduras and Haiti, who have temporary protected status in the U.S., Durbin said the president interrupted to say: “Haitians? Do we need more Haitians?”
“And then he went on when we started to describe the immigration from Africa that was being protected in this bipartisan measure,” Durbin continued. “That’s when he used these vile and vulgar comments, calling the nations they come from ‘s–tholes.’ The exact word used by the president, not just once, but repeatedly.” Durbin said Monday that he stands by his account of Trump’s comments and doesn’t regret telling the public about what he heard, WGN TV reported.
GOP Sen. David Perdue, who also attended the meeting, denied Trump used the term “s–thole countries” to refer to Africa, Haiti and El Salvador. Appearing on ABC’s This Week on Sunday, Perdue said reports on Trump’s comments were a “gross misrepresentation.” (Perdue had already said Friday that he could not remember whether Trump used the vulgar language.)
Love, for her part, said the president should apologize.
“I think that there are people that are looking for an apology and I think that that would show real leadership,” she said, adding that “one of the things we need to do is get people like me in the room.”
“Frankly, I want to just make sure that everyone knows that I don’t know if those comments would’ve been made if I were actually in the room,” she said.
Love, whose parents fled war-torn Haiti for the United States in 1974, one year before her birth, said Trump’s comments were “really difficult to hear, especially because my parents were such big supporters of the president and I think that we have to do everything we can to make sure that we’re coming from a place of compassion and we’re speaking from a place of kindness.”
Love previously released a statement saying Trump’s remarks were “unkind, divisive, elitist, and fly in the face of our nation’s values.”