Donald Trump has insisted he is not racist following an international outcry over an offensive comment he is accused of making about some African, central American and Caribbean countries.
The US president was criticised by the UN and the African Union (AU) after it was credibly reported that he had referred to Haiti, El Salvador and nations in Africa as “shithole countries” during an Oval Office meeting on Thursday.
Trump defended himself on Sunday, telling reporters “I am not a racist” as he arrived for dinner at his private golf club with the House majority leader, Kevin McCarthy.
“I am the least racist person you have ever interviewed. That I can tell you,” he said.
On Friday, the UN human rights spokesman, Rupert Colville, condemned the “shocking and shameful” comment.
“You cannot dismiss entire countries and continents as ‘shitholes’ whose entire populations are not white and, therefore, not welcome,” he told reporters at a news briefing in Geneva.
Trump has previously tried to pass a ban on travel to the US from various Muslim-majority countries, which a judge said was a continuation of his “promise to exclude Muslims from the United States”.
“This isn’t just a story about vulgar language. It’s about opening a door to humanity’s worst side. It’s about validating and encouraging racism and xenophobia that will potentially disrupt and even destroy the lives of many people.
“And that’s perhaps the single most damaging and dangerous consequence of this type of comment by a major political figure.”
The AU, made up of 55 countries, also condemned the remark and demanded an apology.
“This is even more hurtful given the historical reality of just how many Africans arrived in the United States as slaves and also terribly surprising, as the United States remains a massively positive example as just how migration can give birth to a nation,” said a spokeswoman for the union’s chair.
Trump has faced claims of racism throughout his adult life. He insisted Barack Obama was not born in the US during his presidency and demanded that his predecessor release his birth certificate to demonstrate otherwise.
In 1989, he took out full-page ads in four New York newspapers demanding the return of the death penalty after five black teenagers were arrested over the rape of a woman in Central Park. They were innocent.
On Sunday, Trump said:
“Did you see what various senators in the room said about my comments? They weren’t made.”