Trump denies ‘shithole’ comment, but Illinois senator confirms the remarks
When Donald Trump visited Little Haiti during the 2016 presidential campaign, he told the Haitian-American community: “I really want to be your biggest champion.”
Minutes later, he was calling Haiti a shithole.
In Bob Woodward’s new book released on Tuesday, “Fear: Trump in the White House,” the veteran reporter wrote that Trump used the vulgarity to describe Haiti after a campaign stop in Little Haiti.
“The idea of ‘shithole countries’ was not a new one for Trump,” Woodward wrote. “During the 2016 campaign, Trump had visited Little Haiti in Miami. Former Haitian leaders had come to the microphones and accused the Clintons of corruption and stealing from Haiti.”
“After the event, in private, Trump seemed down. ‘I really felt for these people. They come from such a shithole.’”
The comments in 2016 came after a Trump campaign event where the then-candidate told Haitian-Americans they shared “a lot of common values” and railed against the Clinton Foundation’s spending in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake.
“Whether you vote for me or not I really want to be your biggest champion,” Trump said in prepared remarks. “Clinton was responsible for doing things a lot of the Haitian people are not happy with. Taxpayer dollars intended for Haiti and the earthquake victims went to a lot of the Clinton cronies.”
Michael Barnett, the vice chairman of the Florida Republican Party who helped organize the Little Haiti event, said he will continue to believe the president when he says he didn’t say it.
“I am still willing to give the President the benefit of the doubt,” he said. “I would like to know where these allegations have come from; who are the sources? Until I see any concrete proof, I am willing to believe the president when he says he didn’t say it.”
Barnett was tasked with getting the Little Haiti community to show up to the Trump campaign event. He said he doesn’t recall the president having any private meeting after and that “he got into his vehicle and left the cultural center. I don’t know where he went after that.”
Trump’s use of the vulgarity set off a barrage of criticism earlier this year when the president referred to Haiti and some African nations as “shithole countries” during a much-publicized January meeting on immigration.
But it wasn’t the first time Trump used the term, according to Woodward.
At the 2018 immigration meeting, Trump reportedly used the word to refer to Haiti and other countries amid a discussion about Temporary Protected Status, a way for Haitians and others from countries recovering from disaster or suffering from instability to live and work in the U.S. without the threat of deportation. The Department of Homeland Security canceled TPS for Haiti and other countries since Trump took office.
Woodward’s book also gives additional details about the January 2018 immigration meeting. After South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham brought up the TPS issue and visas for immigrants from African countries, Trump responded.
“Haitians,” Trump said. “We don’t need more Haitians.” In reference to Haiti and the African countries, Trump said, “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?”
“Time out,” Graham said in response. “I don’t like where this thing’s going. America is an ideal. I want merit-based immigration, not just Europeans. A lot of us come from shitholes.”
Miami Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart was also present at the meeting, but he has declined to provide details or confirm Graham’s version of events, saying that he does not comment on private meetings.
Woodward wrote that Trump called Graham two days after the meeting while he was playing golf in West Palm Beach, and said to Graham that he didn’t make some of the comments that Graham had confirmed publicly.
“I didn’t say some of the things that he said I said,” Trump said, referring to Illinois Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin, who was also present at the meeting.
“Yeah, you did,” Graham responded.
“Well, some people like what I said,” Trump responded.
“I’m not one of them,” Graham said. “I want to help you. I like playing golf with you. But if that’s the price of admission, count me out. Good luck. Hit ‘em good.”
Woodward’s book has already angered the president after multiple media outlets with advance copies published excerpts last week.
The Washington Post published an excerpt that quoted White House chief of staff John Kelly saying “He’s an idiot. It’s pointless to try to convince him of anything. He’s gone off the rails. We’re in Crazytown. I don’t even know why any of us are here. This is the worst job I’ve ever had.”
Kelly denied calling Trump an idiot, and the president took to Twitter.
“The Woodward book is a scam. I don’t talk the way I am quoted,” Trump tweeted on Friday. “If I did I would not have been elected President. These quotes were made up. The author uses every trick in the book to demean and belittle. I wish the people could see the real facts - and our country is doing GREAT!”
Miami Herald reporter Jacqueline Charles and McClatchy White House reporter Franco Ordoñez contributed to this report.