Trump responds to reports he made a vulgar insult during DACA meeting

The president said his comments were "tough" but "this was not the language used."
5:10 | 01/12/18

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Transcript for Trump responds to reports he made a vulgar insult during DACA meeting
Friday night beginning with president trump and that growing firestorm facing massive backlash over his profane and racially offensive comments at the white house. President trying to backtrack from the comments on a day celebrating Dr. Martin Luther king Jr., a report asking are you a racist? One democratic senator describing what happened in that meeting applauding the Republican he says stood up to the president. ABC's chief white house correspondent Jonathan Karl leading us off tonight. Reporter: On a day when he is under fire for racially explosive comments, the president signed a proclamation honoring martin Luther king, Jr., even joined by a member of the king family, but he couldn't avoid the blunt question, are you a racist? Mr. President did you refer to African nations, did you use To refer to African nations? Mr. President are you racist? Mr. President are you racist? Reporter: Early this morning, the president attempted damage control over the vulgar insult he used in his meeting with members of congress, tweeting -- "The language used by me at the DACA meeting was tough, but this was not the language used." Adding -- "Never said anything derogatory about Haitians other than Haiti is, obviously, a very poor and troubled country. Reporter: But nowhere did the president deny directing that profane insult at African countries. He said these hateful things and he said them repeatedly. Reporter: Democratic senator dick Durbin was in that oval office meeting. He said Haitians, do we need more Haitians? And then he went on and started to describe the immigration from Africa. That's when he used these vile and vulgar comments, calling the nations they come from . The exact word used by the president. Not just once but repeatedly. Reporter: Lateroday, senator Durbin detailed more of the president's comments. He said "Put me down for wanting more Europeans to come to this country. Why don't we get more people from Norway? That is exactly what the president said." Reporter: Durbin says Republican senator Lindsey graham challenged the president on the spot. For him to confront the president as he did, literally sitting next to him took extraordinary political courage and I respect him for it. Reporter: Today senator graham said "I said my piece directly to the president yesterday, I've always believed that America is an idea, not defined by its people but by its ideals." Other lawmakers condemned the president's comments as blatantly racist. Democratic senator Dianne Feinstein saying, quote, "The president's expressed desire to see more immigrants from countries like Norway must be called out for what it is, an effort to set this country back generations by promoting a homogenous, white society." And prominent Republicans weighed in. First thing that came to my mind was very unfortunate, unhelpful. Reporter: Congresswoman Mia love, a daughter of Haitian immigrants, said, "The president's comments are unkind, divisive, elitist, and fly in the face of our nation's values." And former Republican party chairman Michael Steele was asked point blank if he thinks the president is a racist. Yeah I do, at this point the evidence is incontrovertible. It's right there. Reporter: It's far from the first time the president has made racially insensitive comments. There's what he said about Mexicans on the very first day of his presidential campaign. "They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people." Reporter: And his comments following the rally of white supremacists in charlottesville last August. You also had people that were very fine people on both sides. Reporter: But today at the mlk, Jr event, the president tried to strike an entirely different tone: No matter what the color of our skin or the place of our birth we are all created equal by god. Let's get to Jon Karl at the white house tonight. Jon reaction to the president's comments pouring in from around the world? Reporter: The remarks were condemned around the world. The African union put out a statement demanding a retraction and apology quote, not only to the Africans but to all people of African decent around the globe and the governments of Haiti summon the top U.S. Officials at the embassies to ask for an explanation for the president's words. The president also canceled his visit to London saying he was unhappy with the new U.S. Embassy there and the president trying to connect the decision on that new embassy to former president Obama? Reporter: The visit to London had been widely reported to be happening next month. The president said that he was doing this was cancelling on Twitter because the bad deal that the U.S. Got on the new embassy there. But this embassy was started, the move was started by the bush administration, not by president Obama. Jon Karl leading us off. Thank you.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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