President Donald Trump faced a bevy of questions on Friday about claims that he referred to Haiti and African nations as 's***holes' in an immigration meeting at the White House.
Trump's alleged remarks, which he has disputed, were thrown back in his face at an ill-timed Martin Luther King Jr. Day event in the Roosevelt Room.
'Mr. President, will you give an apology for the statement yesterday?' asked American Urban Radio Network White House Correspondent and CNN contributor April Ryan. 'Mr. President, are you a racist?' she asked in a second attempt.
The president ducked Ryan's questions as he said goodbye to his guests and rushed out of the room.
The president ducked questions on his alleged 's***hole' countries remarks today
Trump's alleged remarks, which he has disputed, were thrown back in his face at an ill-timed Martin Luther King Jr. Day event in the Roosevelt Room
'Mr. President, will you give an apology for the statement yesterday?' asked American Urban Radio Network correspondent and CNN contributor April Ryan
MLK Day will not be observed by the federal government until Monday, but Trump is skipping town this afternoon for Palm Beach. He's expected to return to Washington at some point on Monday.
At the White House this morning, Trump signed a proclamation honoring the civil rights leader and delivered a short speech celebrating King's accomplishments.
Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson, the only African-American in Trump's Cabinet, also spoke at the White House event. So did Pastor Issac Newton Farris, a nephew of the late Dr. King.
Ryan also asked: 'Mr. President, are you a racist?'
'If my uncle were here today, the first thing he would say is, "What are we or what are you doing for others?" ' Farris said. 'We did not want the King holiday just to be a day of hero worship.'
Farris said that as his nephew, 'I certainly think that he was one of the greatest Americans that we have produced. But it should not be a day of hero worship. And that's why the Congress agreed with my aunt, and also made it a day of service so that we, on that day -- as a matter of fact, at the King Center, we refer to it as "a day on, not a day off."
'It's not a day to hang out in the park or pull out the barbeque grill. It's a day to do something to help someone else, and that can be as simple as delivering someone's trash or picking up the newspaper for that elderly person who can't get to the end of the driveway.'
Trump said his remarks that King 'courageously' stood up civil rights.
'Through his bravery and sacrifice, Dr. King opened the eyes and lifted the conscience of our nation,' he said. 'He steered the hearts of our people to recognize the dignity written in every human soul.'
And in a moment of irony given his alleged remarks, Trump said, 'Today we celebrate Dr. King for standing up for self-evident truth Americans hold so dear, that no matter what the color of our skin or the place of our birth, we are all created equal by God.'
'While Dr. King is no longer with us,' Trump said, 'his words and vision only grow stronger through time.'
Signing an MLK Day proclamation, Trump said, 'This is a great and important day...Congratulations to him and to everybody.'
The president did not respond to Ryan's questions. Pastor Darrell Scott, a participant in the event, shouted, 'no,' at her instead
As soon as the president finished, Ryan and other reporters hit him with a string of questions about the remarks he's said to have made yesterday about 's***hole' nations.
Ryan asked Trump to respond to the 'serious' questions about the statement.
The president did not respond. Pastor Darrell Scott, a participant in the event, shouted, 'no,' at her instead.
'I'm talking to the president, not you sir,' she could be heard saying to him audibly as cameras continue to roll.
A White House feed of the event swiftly turned off as the president exited.
The dispute between the longtime White House correspondent and the Ohio-based pastor who was on Trump's transition team continued, though, after the internal feed ended.
Trump has denied making a widely condemned comment railing against immigrants from 's***hole countries,' although he has admitted to using 'tough' language in an Oval Office meeting with lawmakers on Thursday.
'The language used by me at the DACA meeting was tough, but this was not the language used,' Trump said in a Friday morning tweet. 'What was really tough was the outlandish proposal made - a big setback for DACA!'
The tweet came hours after a bombshell report about Trump's comments, which the White House did not immediately deny, and two Republican senators in the room say they do not recall.
Trump's claim that he did not make the directly contradicted by Democratic Sen. Richard Durbin of Illinois, who was in the meeting.
'In the course of his comments, [Trump] said things that were hate-filled, vile and racist,' Durbin told reporters Friday. 'I use those words advisedly. I understand how powerful they are. But I cannot believe in this history of the White House, in that Oval Office, any president has ever spoken the words that I personally heard our president speak yesterday,' Durbin said.
'I'm talking to the president, not you sir,' she could be heard saying to Scott (left) audibly as cameras continue to roll
'You've seen the comments in the press,' Durbin said. 'I have not read one of them that's inaccurate. To no surprise, the President started tweeting this morning, denying that he used those words. It is not true. He said these hate-filled things and he said them repeatedly.'
'When the question was raised about Haitians, for example. We have a group that have temporary protected status in the United States because they were the victims of crises, disasters, and political upheaval,' Durbin continued. 'The largest group's El Salvadoran, the second is Honduran and the third is Haitian. And when I mentioned that fact to him he said Haitians, do we need more Haitians?'
'And then he went on and he started to describe the immigration from Africa that was being protected in this bipartisan measure. That's when he used these vile and vulgar comments calling the nations they come from shitholes. The exact word used by the president not just once, but repeatedly. That was the nature of this conversation.'
Trump's public argument against the emerging deal to protect DACA recipients and make other immigration policy came after a flurry of rebukes from Democrats as well as Republicans in Congress.
Trump also denied having said 'take them out' in regard to Haitians, as his administration moves to remove temporary immigration status for people who fled disasters in Haiti and El Salvador years ago. Democrats want to give some 'diversity' visas to these people as changes are made to a special program that lets people apply from around the world to come here.
'Never said anything derogatory about Haitians other than Haiti is, obviously, a very poor and troubled country. Never said "take them out," Trump wrote. 'Made up by Dems. I have a wonderful relationship with Haitians. Probably should record future meetings - unfortunately, no trust!'
Among those condemning the comments were Hatian-American Republican Rep. Mia Love of Utah, who called the reported comments 'unkind, divisive [and] elitist' and demanded that Trump apologize.
Trump has not apologized, and the White House initially did not not deny he made the comments, which were initially reported by the Washington Post.