Firestorm over Trump's denial of comments

Lawmakers who heard firsthand the president's reported derogatory comments about Haiti and Africa weighed in on the backlash and Trump's denial of the alleged remarks.
6:30 | 01/13/18

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Transcript for Firestorm over Trump's denial of comments
president is wake up this morning at mar-a-lago where he will spend this long mlk weekend. He is dealing with a racially charged controversy once again. Reports that the president used profane and disparaging language while describing countries that send us immigrants including Africa and Haiti. David Wright is in west palm beach for us. Good morning. Reporter: Good morning. President trump is on the defensive over those vulgar comments he's made. The president has offered a vague denial but others who were there in the room insist that he did say it and to say this isp causing an uproar would be an understatement. Today we gather in the white house to honor the memory of a great American hero, the reverend Dr. Martin Luther king Jr. Reporter: Right after signing a proclamation celebrating Dr. Martin Luther king jr.'s legacy, president trump faced a barrage of questions. Mr. President, did you refer to African nations as To refer to -- Mr. President, are you a racist? Mr. President, are you a racist? Reporter: Trump ignores them and denies uttering the derogatory language connected to him in connection to Haiti but not with countries in Africa. He said these hate-filled things and said them repeatedly. Democrat in that meeting. He said put me down for wanting more Europeans to come to this country. Why don't we get more people from Norway? That was exactly what the president said. Reporter: Senator Lindsey graham was there too. The president was very gracious. Reporter: Initially graham kept private about what he said but now admits he spoke up. The president and all those attending the meeting know what I said and how I feel, he said. 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: During the campaign trump spoke in more flattering terms about Haiti. The Haitian people deserve better. Together we will build a relationship based on mutual respect. Reporter: But he prides himself on tough talk on issues like immigration. Famously saying this about Mexico. Ty're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists and some I assume are good people. Reporter: Some Republicans are willing to give trump the benefit of the doubt. I think he has an unconventional way of communicating and he's a diamond with a number of rough edges. Reporter: Now the president invokes Dr. King's dream as a vision he shares. We pledge to fight for his dream of equality, freedom, justice and peace. Reporter: This is obviously a delicate issue. The language attributed to the president has ruffled feathers not only in this country but around the world especially in those countries that he seems to take a dim view of and ambassadors are being called in and dressed down and the African union is calling for an apology to Africans and to people of African descent around the world. Paula and Dan. Yeah, definitely put us in an uncomfortable position. David, before leaving for Florida the president had his first physical since taking office. What can you tell us about the results as well as the physician who goed him? Reporter: Well, the physician is not that colorful park avenue gastroenterologist who said during the campaign that he would be the healthiest president ever. This a rear admiral at Walter reed hospital. He was actually president Obama's physician too. The top line result is that the physical went extremely well and that the president is in exceptional health and we can expect more details on Tuesday. David, thank you. David Wright reporting from Florida. Let's bring in ABC news political analyst Matthew dowd. Matthew, good morning. Good morning. So we've heard from Lindsey graham and heard in David Wright's piece that Lindsay was in the room. Paul Ryan, speaker of the house weighed in calling his comments unhelpful. What do you think overall about the way Republicans are handling this? Well, Paul Ryan referring to what many are interprettying as ra raftist Rema racist remarks is like me forgetting a hat on a sunny day. If they were a pasta and you wering could cooking them, they would not be Al Dente. They are as far as from firm on this on the president as possible and amazed at the gravitational pull of planet trump "All the money in the world" these GOP leaders have lost their principles after they've gotten pulled into that planet. It seemed that Democrats and Republicans were making a lot of progress on immigration and DACA. How big of a setback is this? I think it's huge. You know, I've described before I think the president did a bit like wile E. Coyote. Every time he thinks he's going to have great success he blows himself in the middle of. The best present of presidency when he made that deal on the debt ceiling with Nancy Pelosi and chuck Schumer and he was headed towards another deal which the last two presidents hadn't been able to do but the president seems to have thrown that off course by just mere of his facts of a meeting and the comments he made at the oval office. Just go back to that comments for a second. I'm not sure they will move the needle in terms of his base of support in America. But how does all of this affect us overseas? Do you think there are global -- serious global rear percussions? I think there was already questions about the president's leadership around the world as we saw last year, the president, this president, president trump's confidence that international leaders had in this president had dropped dramatically from what wfs with president Obama. What this dogs is again reduces our ability to have moral authority in the world on many issue, human rights and keep in mind, there are almost 6,000 troops in Africa that we depend on and are in conjunction with those countries to fight terrorism. That's put in jeopardy. All right. Our wile E. Coyote and pasta aficionado this morning. You never know where we'll go. I thought we were going to talk about stormy Daniels.

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

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