Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin forcefully rejected President Donald Trump’s denial over the language he used to describe African nations and that he disparaged Haitians during a White House meeting.
"He said these hate-filled things and he said them repeatedly," Durbin said during a press conference at an MLK breakfast Friday.
Trump said Friday on Twitter "this was not the language used" after reports of the comments made in the meeting sparked a political backlash inside and outside the United States. In a follow-up tweet, he asserted that he "never said anything derogatory about Haitians other than Haiti is, obviously, a very poor and troubled country."
But Durbin, the Senate' s No. 2 Democrat, said the comments about Haiti were made directly at him.
"When the question was raised about Haitians, for example, we have a group that have temporary protected status in the United States because they were the victims of crises, and disasters, political upheaval. The largest is El Salvadoran, the second is Honduran and the third is Haitian and when I mentioned that fact to him he said “Haitians? Do we need more Haitians?” Durbin said, adding that the president then went on to describe African nations as "s--tholes."
Trump's comments Thursday came as two senators presented details of a bipartisan compromise that would extend protections against deportation for hundreds of thousands of young immigrants — and also strengthen border protections, as Trump has insisted.
Trump questioned why the U.S. would accept more immigrants from Haiti and counties in Africa rather than places like Norway, as he rejected the bipartisan immigration deal, according to people briefed on the extraordinary Oval Office conversation. A Democratic aide briefed on Thursday's meeting also told NBC News about Trump's remarks.
Trump's contemptuous description of an entire continent startled lawmakers in the meeting and immediately revived charges that the president is racist. The White House did not deny his remark but issued a statement saying Trump supports immigration policies that welcome "those who can contribute to our society."
"The language used by me at the DACA meeting was tough, but this was not the language used," Trump tweeted Friday. He went on to criticize the immigration deal, saying: "What was really tough was the outlandish proposal made - a big setback for DACA!"
The White House did not immediately respond to questions about the president's tweet.
Asked about the remarks on Thursday, White House spokesman Raj Shah did not deny them.
"Certain Washington politicians choose to fight for foreign countries, but President Trump will always fight for the American people," he said.
Still Friday, state Sen. Kwame Raoul, whose parents are from Haiti, called the comments "offensive" and said "you cannot apologize for this."
But it wasn't just Democrats objecting.
Republican Rep. Mia Love of Utah, the daughter of Haitian immigrants, said Trump's comments were "unkind, divisive, elitist and fly in the face of our nation's values." She said, "This behavior is unacceptable from the leader of our nation" and called on Trump to apologize to the American people "and the nations he so wantonly maligned."
The Trump administration announced late last year that it would end a temporary residency permit program that allowed nearly 60,000 citizens from Haiti to live and work in the United States following a devastating 2010 earthquake.
Trump has called himself the "least racist person that you've ever met" and has spoken positively about Haitians in public. During a 2016 campaign event in Miami, he said "the Haitian people deserve better" and told the audience of Haitian-Americans he wanted to "be your greatest champion, and I will be your champion."