Washington - President Donald Trump acknowledged Friday that he used "tough" language during a meeting on efforts toward a bipartisan immigration deal, but appeared to deny using the term "sh*thole" to refer to some countries.
"The language used by me at the DACA meeting was tough, but this was not the language used. What was really tough was the outlandish proposal made - a big setback for DACA!" Trump wrote on Twitter.
Spokespeople for the White House did not immediately respond to a request for clarification Friday. The White House had not denied Thursday that Trump used the vulgarity, first reported by The Washington Post and later confirmed by numerous other news outlets.
The president had grown frustrated with lawmakers Thursday in the Oval Office when they discussed protecting immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and African countries as part of a bipartisan immigration deal, according to several people briefed on the meeting.
"Why are we having all these people from sh*thole countries come here?" Trump had said, according to these people, referring to countries mentioned by the lawmakers.
Trump then suggested that the United States should instead bring more people from countries such as Norway, whose prime minister he met with Wednesday.
A White House official said Trump had also suggested he would be open to more immigrants from Asian countries because he felt that they help the United States economically.
In addition, the president singled out Haiti, telling lawmakers that immigrants from that country must be left out of any deal, these people said.
"Why do we need more Haitians?" Trump said, according to people familiar with the meeting. "Take them out."
In November, the Trump administration rescinded deportation protection granted to nearly 60 000 Haitians after the 2010 earthquake and told them to return home by July 2019.
Sens. Lindsey O. Graham, R-S.C., and Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., had proposed cutting the visa lottery program by 50 percent and then prioritising countries already in the system, a White House official said.
"Certain Washington politicians choose to fight for foreign countries, but President Trump will always fight for the American people," spokesman Raj Shah said in a statement issued after The Washington Post first reported Trump's remarks.
". . . Like other nations that have merit-based immigration, President Trump is fighting for permanent solutions that make our country stronger by welcoming those who can contribute to our society, grow our economy and assimilate into our great nation."