Trump comment deemed 'racist', 'offensive'

Asked if she thought Trump was a bully, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said: \"People make their...
Trump denies using the term. Photo: Reuters

African politicians and diplomats labelled US President Donald Trump a racist on Friday (local time) after he was reported to have described some immigrants from Africa and Haiti as coming from "s***hole" countries.

Trump reportedly made the remarks at a White House meeting on immigration on Thursday and a US senator who attended the gathering said on Friday that the president used "vile, vulgar" language, including repeatedly using the word "s***hole."

Trump denied on Friday using such derogatory language, but he was widely condemned in many African countries and in Haiti and El Salvador, and by international rights organisations.

"Ours is not a s***hole country and neither is Haiti or any other country in distress," Jessie Duarte, the deputy secretary general of South Africa's ruling African National Congress told reporters at a news conference in East London.

"We would not deign to make comments as derogatory as that about any country that has any kind of socio-economic or other difficulties," Duarte said, adding that much like their African counterparts, millions of US citizens were affected by problems such as unemployment.

Botswana's foreign ministry summoned the US ambassador in protest and called the comments "highly irresponsible, reprehensible and racist."

In a statement it said it had asked the US government, through its ambassador, to "clarify" if the derogatory remark also applied to Botswana given that there were Botswana nationals living in the United States and others who wished to go there.

Senegal's foreign ministry also called in the US ambassador in Dakar to demonstrate its displeasure, a US State Department official said.

The African Union (AU), an organisation which promotes cooperation on the continent, said it was alarmed by Trump's "very racist" comments.

"Given the historical reality of how African Americans arrived in the United States as slaves, and the United States being the biggest example of how a nation has been built by migration - for a statement like that to come is particularly upsetting," AU spokeswoman Ebba Kalondo said.

The AU's mission in Washington expressed its "infuriation, disappointment and outrage" at the comment and demanded a retraction as well as an apology.

In Haiti, on the eighth anniversary of a devastating earthquake that killed about 220,000 people, the government also summoned the top US diplomat for an explanation, while the Haitian ambassador to Washington called for an apology.

"Haitians don't deserve such treatment," said Ambassador Paul Altidor. "Haitians should not be seen as a bunch of immigrants who come to the United States to exploit US resources."

Special status given to about 59,000 Haitian immigrants, that has protected them from deportation following the 2010 earthquake, will end next year following a Trump administration ruling last month.

El Salvador, also facing an end to protected status for its 200,000 citizens living in the United States, sent a formal letter of protest to the US government over the comments.

El Salvador's foreign ministry said the US president had "implicitly" accepted the use of "harsh terms detrimental to the dignity of El Salvador and other countries."

Vatican newspaper calls Trump's comment offensive

The Vatican newspaper on Friday branded US President Donald Trump's reported comments about African countries and Haiti as "particularly harsh and offensive".

The newspaper did not print the word "s***hole," which Trump reportedly used repeatedly on Thursday at a White House meeting on immigration on Thursday, according to US Democratic Senator Dick Durbin, who attended the gathering.

The newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, wrote about the comment in a front-page article about the immigration debate in the United States. It noted that Trump's comments had immediately sparked "controversy and indignation".

Trump denies using the term.

Immigration is one of the issues that Pope Francis, who has strongly defended the rights of developing countries, and Trump have clashed over.

In 2016, in response to a question about then-candidate Trump’s views on immigration and his intention to build a wall along the US border with Mexico, Francis said a man with such views was "not Christian".

Trump, who grew up in a Presbyterian family, shot back saying it was "disgraceful" for the pope to question his faith.


Whenever I hear a statement criticised for being "offensive", my sympathies immediately lean towards the original speaker. Even when it's Trump...