Trump’s crass denigrations of Haiti, African nations echo reported outburst last year

President Donald Trump.
Tom Brenner/The New York Times
President Donald Trump.

President Trump denied reports on Friday that he disparaged Haiti, El Salvador, and African nations during a White House meeting, including using the word “shithole” to describe African nations in particular. The comments came during a meeting with lawmakers on immigration policy on Thursday. But he is said to have made nearly identical comments last summer during a heated meeting, also on immigration, with Cabinet members and White House staff.

The June meeting began with an “enraged” Trump storming into the Oval Office, waving a sheet of numbers, according to a story published last month in the New York Times.

Trump was agitated over the document, which the Times reported had been prepared by his domestic policy adviser, Stephen Miller, and which tallied visas issued to immigrants in 2017 by country.


Trump was irate over the numbers, and specifically disparaged people from Afghanistan, Haiti, and Nigeria, the Times reported:

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“More than 2,500 were from Afghanistan, a terrorist haven, the president complained,” according to the Times article. “Haiti had sent 15,000 people. They ‘all have AIDS,’ he grumbled, according to one person who attended the meeting and another person who was briefed about it by a different person who was there. Forty thousand had come from Nigeria, Mr. Trump added. Once they had seen the United States, they would never ‘go back to their huts’ in Africa, recalled the two officials, who asked for anonymity to discuss a sensitive conversation in the Oval Office.”

In addition to Trump and Miller, also at the meeting were John Kelly, who was secretary of homeland security at the time (he is now Trump’s chief of staff), and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, along with staff members.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, denied that Trump had made the derogatory comments in the June meeting.

“General Kelly, General McMaster, Secretary Tillerson, Secretary Nielsen and all other senior staff actually in the meeting deny these outrageous claims,” she said, according to the Times.


In Thursday’s meeting, The Washington Post reported, Trump grew frustrated with lawmakers in the Oval Office when they floated restoring protections for immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador, and African countries as part of a bipartisan immigration deal.

“Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?’’ Trump said according to the Post, referring to African countries. He then suggested that the United States should instead bring more people from countries like Norway, whose prime minister he met Wednesday, and fewer from countries like Haiti.

The comments left lawmakers taken aback, people familiar with their reactions told the paper. Two senators in the meeting, Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, and Richard Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, had proposed cutting the visa lottery program by 50 percent and then prioritizing countries already in the system, a White House official said told the Post.

On Friday, Trump himself denied that he had made any derogatory comments on Thursday, tweeting first that “The language used by me at the DACA meeting was tough, but this was not the language used,” and later that he had “never said anything derogatory about Haitians other than Haiti is, obviously, a very poor and troubled country. . . . I have a wonderful relationship with Haitians.”

Durbin countered the president’s tweets on Friday, telling reporters “he said these hate-filled things,” MSNBC reported.