'I never said sh*thole, though I did use tough language,' says Trump
US President Donald Trump yesterday denied using the word "sh**hole" to describe Haiti and African countries, but maintained his criticism of a Senate immigration plan that he said would force the US to admit people from countries that "are doing badly".
Mr Trump reportedly made the remarks at a White House meeting on immigration on Thursday.
Democratic Senator Dick Durbin, who was there, told reporters yesterday that Mr Trump used "vile, vulgar" language.
He said the president repeatedly used the word "sh**hole" when speaking about African countries.
Mr Trump's comments were decried as racist by African and Haitian politicians, by the UN human rights office and by US lawmakers from both major parties.
Mr Trump tweeted yesterday: "The language used by me at the Daca meeting was tough, but this was not the language used."
He also denied saying "anything derogatory about Haitians other than that Haiti is, obviously, a very poor and troubled country".
According to two sources, at Thursday's meeting the president questioned why the US would want to accept immigrants from Haiti and African nations, referring to some as "sh**hole countries".
Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives, Paul Ryan, called the remarks "unfortunate" and "unhelpful".
Both Republican and Democratic senators had been working for months to craft legislation that would protect 700,000 young adults who were brought into the US illegally as children and later shielded from deportation under a programme known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA.
In a series of tweets yesterday, Mr Trump also suggested that momentum towards a deal on maintaining such protection had stalled.
"The so-called bipartisan DACA deal presented yesterday to myself and a group of Republican senators and congressmen was a big step backwards," he said.
The tentative deal also addresses border security, including a border wall, the diversity visa lottery and chain migration, in which US green-card holders can sponsor other family members for permanent residence in the country.
Among his objections, Mr Trump said the US "would be forced to take large numbers of people from high crime countries which are doing badly".
Haiti said it was shocked by the reported remarks and summoned the top US diplomat in the country, asking for an apology if the term had been used.
Botswana said it had summoned the US ambassador to that country to "express its displeasure" and had asked him whether Botswana "is regarded as a 'sh**hole' country".
Mr Trump's comments are extremely offensive to South Africa, said Jessie Duarte, a senior official with the ruling African National Congress.
"Ours is not a sh**hole country. Neither is Haiti or any other country in distress," she said.
In Geneva, UN human rights spokesman Rupert Colville said: "These are shocking and shameful comments. There is no other word but 'racist'."