U.S. Sen. David Perdue says he "does not recall" hearing President Trump denounced certain nations as “s---hole countries" in an immigration meeting at the White House on Thursday.
The Georgia senator was at the meeting in which Trump, according to anonymous sources, made the comment.
In a statement released Friday afternoon, Perdue said:
“President Trump brought everyone to the table this week and listened to both sides. But regrettably, it seems that not everyone is committed to negotiating in good faith. In regards to Senator Durbin’s accusation, we do not recall the President saying these comments specifically but what he did call out was the imbalance in our current immigration system, which does not protect American workers and our national interest. We, along with the President, are committed to solving an issue many in Congress have failed to deliver on for decades.”
Perdue faced social media pressure to denounce President Trump’s alleged comments on Thursday in which he denounced certain nations as “s---hole countries.”
Also in the meeting, according to NBC, were U.S. Sens. Lindsay Graham (R-SC); Dick Durbin (D-IL), and Tom Cotton (R-AR), and U.S. Reps. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Robert Goodlatte (R-VA).
On Friday, the president denied using the term to describe Haiti, El Salvador and African countries, and instead sought to put the redirect the focus on what he called unacceptable Democratic proposals on immigration.
However, on Friday, Durbin confirmed the president made comments he considered "vile and racist" about immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and African countries.
"I have seen the comments in the press, I have not read one of them that's inaccurate," Durbin told reporters in Chicago. "In the course of (Trump's) comments, he said things that were hate-filled, vile and racist.
"l use those words advisingly, I understand how powerful they are. I cannot believe that in the history of the White House and that Oval Office any president has ever spoken the words that I personally heard our president speak yesterday."
U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson's office said he was not in the meeting with the president and does not have first-hand knowledge of what was or was not said. When asked about the alleged comments made by the president in a radio interview this morning on POTUS SiriusXM radio, Isakson said:
“I did not hear it, but if it’s true, he owes of the people of Haiti and all of mankind an apology. That is not the kind of statement the leader of the free world should make, and he ought to be ashamed of himself. If he did not make it, he needs to corroborate the facts and prove it and move forward.”
In the meantime, Perdue's silence until Friday's statement drew sharp comments on social media:
The attempt to clarify came after The Washington Post reported that Trump questioned in a meeting with lawmakers on Thursday why the U.S. would accept immigrants from "s---hole countries" like Haiti or in Africa rather than in places like Norway. Trump had met the previous day with the prime minister of Norway.
Yet upcoming negotiations between the White House and Congress on immigration are likely to be shadowed by the reported presidential comments, which some lawmakers and human rights officials denounced as racist.
The government of Haiti has demanded that U.S. officials provide an explanation of the president's remarks.
During his Friday tweet storm, Trump also rejected a bipartisan congressional proposal on DACA, saying it lacked funding for the U.S.-Mexico wall and did not end programs like "chain migration."
On Friday morning, President Trump signed a proclamation officially naming Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr's birthday a federal holiday.
USA Today also contributed to this report.