Donald Trump Sunday denied being racist despite being heard describing African nations as “shithole countries” during a bipartisan meeting in the Oval Office Thursday.
"No, no. I am not a racist,” he said while arriving for dinner at his Florida golf club with the House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy. Trump then went further, telling reporters he’s the “least racist person you have ever interviewed.”
Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin and Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, both in the meeting, confirmed last week the Washington Post report claiming Trump used the term “shithole.”
However, two Republican senators who initially said they didn’t recall Trump saying “shithole” changed their story Sunday, insisting he never said it.
Speaking to CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Senator Tom Cotton moved from “I do not recall” to “I didn't hear it and I was sitting no further away from Donald Trump than Dick Durbin.”
Senator David Perdue underwent the same metamorphosis, telling ABC’s “This Week”: “He did not use that word. And I’m telling you it’s a gross misrepresentation.”
Trump jumped on Cotton and Perdue’s dubious liferaft Sunday, saying: “Did you see what various senators in the room said about my comments? They weren’t made.”
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, the only White House official in the meeting to pass comment, told “Fox News Sunday” she did not “recall him using that exact phrase” but added that Trump “did use and will continue to use strong language.”
Conservative pundit Erick Erickson reported Sunday that Trump did say “shithole” and the president spent Thursday evening talking to friends about how well it would play well with his base.