- Conflicting reports are emerging about whether President Donald Trump said “shithole” or “shithouse” to refer to Haiti and African countries.
- Republican Sens. Tom Cotton and David Perdue reportedly heard “shithouse” – a distinction which may have given them cover to deny that Trump had said “shithole.”
- The debate comes as negotiations over the fate of young unauthorized immigrants have largely reached a stalemate.
As Washington draws closer to a government shutdown and bipartisan negotiations over immigration continue to devolve, lawmakers are still debating the exact profanity President Donald Trump is accused of using to describe certain foreign countries.
A meeting with a bipartisan group of lawmakers last Thursday made waves after reports emerged that Trump had described Haiti and African nations as “shithole countries” and asked why the US was accepting immigrants from those places and not countries such as Norway.
The reports prompted widespread outrage and condemnation, and threw a wrench in the negotiations over how to handle the young unauthorized immigrants temporarily shielded from deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which the Trump administration intended to phase out by March 5.
Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, who has taken a leading role DACA negotiations and attended the Thursday meeting at the White House, said publicly that Trump repeatedly used the word “shithole” to describe the countries, calling the remarks “hate-filled, vile, and racist.”
But two other senators who attended the meeting and have espoused hardline views on immigration restrictions, Republicans Tom Cotton and David Perdue, were also in the meeting and first said they did “not recall” the president making the “shithole” comment specifically, and later told news outlets that Trump “did not use that word” and that they “didn’t hear it.”
But three White House officials told The Washington Post that, in fact, Perdue and Cotton heard Trump say “shithouse” rather than “shithole” – a distinction that gave them cover to deny that Trump had used the latter profanity.
Some Republicans have even reportedly attempted to defend the term “shithouse” by saying Trump was referring to literal outhouses and was not making a racial remark.
“Some Rs say ‘shithouse countries’ refers to poor countries w/no plumbing – places where u have to walk out to the shithouse – and therefore the phrase is NOT racist,” The Hill’s Scott Wong reported.
Other meeting attendees included Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who did not detail Trump’s exact wording but said he confronted Trump about the comments.
“I said my piece directly to him,” Graham said in a statement. “The president and all those attending the meeting know what I said and how I feel.”
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen was also in the room, and told “Fox News Sunday” that she did not recall Trump saying “that exact phrase.”
Trump himself has issued a vague denial, tweeting last Friday that he used “tough” language during the meeting, but that his reported remark was “not the language used.”