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WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump on Friday offered a vague denial of his allegedly disparaging remarks about some nations at a White House meeting but some lawmakers who attended the meeting insisted that he did use the slur, more than once.

The Washington Post was the first to report that at a private meeting with both Republican and Democratic lawmakers at the White House on Thursday, Mr Trump referred to Haiti and some African nations as “shithole countries”.

Other media outlets confirmed from their own sources that he did make those remarks, stunning the lawmakers one of whom later shared the remarks with the Post.

President Trump’s first response, issued several hours after his alleged remarks blew into a huge controversy about his attitude towards immigrants, was hardly a denial.

“Democrat Dianne Feinstein should never have released secret committee testimony to the public without authorisation. Very disrespectful to committee members and possibly illegal,” he tweeted.

He followed it up with several tweets, blaming the Democrats for this controversy and finally, on Friday, he issued his vague denial: “Never said anything derogatory about Haitians other than Haiti is, obviously, a very poor and troubled country. Never said ‘take them out’. Made up by Dems. I have a wonderful relationship with Haitians. Probably should record future meetings — unfortunately, no trust.”

But, as The New York Times pointed out, Mr Trump “did not comment on his reported use of the specific word ‘shithole’ to describe African nations.”

Senator Richard J. Durbin, who attended the White House meeting, rejected Mr Trump’s denial. “It’s not true. He said these hate-filled things and he said them repeatedly,” said the Illinois Democrat.

Republican lawmakers also ignored the president’s denial and continued to criticise him even after he released the tweet that is being interpreted as a vague denial.

“Language like that shouldn’t be heard in locker rooms and it shouldn’t be heard in the White House,” tweeted Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Florida Republican.

In his interview to MSNBC television, Senator Durbin said that besides that particularly hurtful word, Mr Trump also said other “things which were hate-filled, vile and racist”.

According to the US media, in a discussion about immigration from African nations, Mr Trump asked why he would want “all these people from shithole countries”. Mr Trump also said the United States should admit more people from places like Norway, an overwhelmingly white country.

Published in Dawn, January 13th, 2018