Haiti on Friday expressed shock at reports that U.S. President Donald Trump referred to the Caribbean nation as a "shithole," and summoned the top U.S. diplomat in the country for an explanation.
Trump on Thursday questioned why the United States would want to have immigrants from Haiti and African nations, referring to some as "shithole countries," according to two sources familiar with the comments.
On Friday, the Republican president denied using those words. But Democratic U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, who attended a White House meeting on immigration the previous day, confirmed to reporters that Trump used "vile, vulgar" language, including "shithole."
African politicians labeled Trump a racist, while the United Nations human rights office rejected the reported comments as "racist" and inciting xenophobia.
Haiti's ambassador to Washington, Paul Altidor, said it was distressing that attention was drawn to the comments on Friday, the eighth anniversary of a devastating earthquake believed to have killed 220,000 people on the island, and should be a day of remembrance.
"I spoke with President Jovenel Moise about the issue, and, of course, the President condemns such language and he is shocked."
Altidor said Foreign Affairs Minister Antonio Rodrigue told him the U.S. chargé d’affaires in Haiti had been summoned to provide an explanation about the reported comments.
The ambassador said Haiti should be remembered for its contributions to history, including supporting the American Revolution by sending troops to the Battle of Savannah in Georgia in 1779.
"Haitians don't deserve such treatment," Altidor said. "Haitians should not be seen as a bunch of immigrants who come to the United States to exploit U.S. resources.
"We have been here for a long time and have contributed to what the United States is today. We even made the ultimate sacrifice when we shed our blood in Savannah."
(Reporting by Guyler Delva; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)