A senator who attended the closed-door meeting during which the president reportedly insulted Haiti and various African nations with an expletive now says Trump never said the word.
Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., who supports Trump’s immigration policies, had previously claimed that he did not recall whether or not Trump used this incendiary language.
But on ABC News’ “This Week,” he repeatedly said that the meeting had been grossly and totally misrepresented in the press. The show’s host, George Stephanopoulos, pointed out that Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., have told others that the reports were more or less accurate.
“I’m saying that this is a gross misrepresentation. It’s not the first time Sen. Durbin has done it. And it is not productive to solving the problem,” Perdue said.
Stephanopoulos repeatedly tried to have Perdue clarify what he meant and asked point-blank if Trump did not in fact say the crass word during the meeting.
“I’m telling you he did not use that word, George. And I’m telling you it’s a gross misrepresentation. How many times do you want me to say that?” Perdue replied.
Reports that Trump used vulgar language to describe Haiti and African countries, while opining that the U.S. does not accept more immigrants from countries like Norway, during an immigration meeting on Thursday elicited widespread condemnation from both sides of the aisle.
For instance, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said, “These comments are highly inappropriate and out of bounds and could hurt efforts for a bipartisan immigration agreement. The president should not denigrate other countries.”
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., similarly said, “The words used by the president, as related to me directly following the meeting by those in attendance, were not ‘tough,’ they were abhorrent and repulsive.”
Perdue and Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., were both present at the negotiations on reforming the immigration system. Their response to the widespread reports of Trump’s language, however, generated a bit of controversy itself. They did not condemn or outright deny the comments. Instead, just as Attorney General Jeff Sessions had before the Senate intelligence committee in June, they simply said they could not recall what had happened. They said as much in the following statement, which was released Friday:
“President Trump brought everyone to the table this week and listened to both sides. But regrettably, it seems that not everyone is committed to negotiating in good faith. In regards to Senator Durbin’s accusation, we do not recall the President saying these comments specifically but what he did call out was the imbalance in our current immigration system, which does not protect American workers and our national interest. We, along with the President, are committed to solving an issue many in Congress have failed to deliver on for decades.”
Shortly after the ABC News interview on Sunday, Durbin spokesman Ben Marter said on Twitter that Perdue has a credibility problem.
“Credibility is something that’s built by being consistently honest over time. Senator Durbin has it. Senator Perdue does not. Ask anyone who’s dealt with both,” Marter said.
Two hours later, Marter added, “Yesterday, Senators Cotton and Perdue ‘could not recall’ what the President said. Today they can. That, folks, is a credibility problem.”