World condemnation came quickly today after President Donald Trump's remarks calling Haiti and other African countries "s---hole countries"
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Rupert Colville, the spokesperson for the Office of the United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights, characterized the remarks as "racist."
"This isn't just a story about vulgar language, it's about opening the door to humanity's worst side, about validating and encouraging racism and xenophobia," he told reporters at a briefing in Geneva Friday. "If confirmed, these are shocking and shameful comments from the president of the United States."
In an Oval Office meeting at the White House Thursday, Trump grew frustrated at a proposed bipartisan immigration plan that would scale back the visa lottery program, but not eliminate it, asking those in the room why they would want people from Haiti, Africa and other "s---hole countries" coming into the United States, according to multiple sources either briefed on or familiar with the discussion.
For his part, Trump denied he used "derogatory" language about Haitians in a tweet this morning. Trump, however, did not deny accounts from multiple sources either briefed on or familiar with the discussion who told ABC News the president's comments extended to African countries as well.
Colville also expressed concern for previous remarks by Trump that had what he called racial undertones, including campaign events in which the then-candidate had called Mexican immigrants criminals and rapists, and Trump's response last year to a white supremacist march saying that "both sides" deserved blame.
"These comments are against the universal values the international community has been striving for since World War II," Colville said.
An African Union spokeswoman told The Associated Press it was "frankly alarmed" by the U.S. president's comments.
“Given the historical reality of how many Africans arrived in the United States as slaves, this statement flies in the face of all accepted behavior and practice,” AU spokeswoman Ebba Kalondo said. “This is particularly surprising as the United States of America remains a global example of how migration gave birth to a nation built on strong values of diversity and opportunity.”
The government of Botswana summonsed U.S. Ambassador Earl Miller “to express its displeasure for alleged utterances” and ask for clarification on whether its country is being called a “s---hole.”
“The Government of Botswana is wondering why President Trump must use this descriptor and derogatory word when talking about countries with whom the U.S. has had cordial and mutually beneficial relations for so many years,” wrote the Botswana Ministry of International Affairs in a statement.
Meanwhile, The Nigerian Daily Post had the headline, "Trump allegedly calls Africa ‘s---hole,’ orders 259,000 immigrants out of U.S." The newspaper also repeated the claim first reported in a New York Times story in December that Trump had said once Nigerians immigrants had seen America, they would never "go back to their huts." The White House denied Trump ever uttered those words.
But many of the bigger African media sites avoided the story, and some countries refused to comment directly.
"Unless it was specifically said about South Sudan, we have nothing to say," South Sudan government spokesman Ateny Wek Ateny told The Associated Press.
In South Africa, the party of Nelson Mandela, the African National Congress, called Trump’s comments “extremely offensive.” In an editorial, the local Daily Maverick called the comments "a new low," adding, "Casual Friday at the White House is soon to include hoods and tiki torches at this rate."