The Connecticut Senate’s Republican leader, Len Fasano of North Haven, called Friday for President Trump to apologize for reportedly referring to immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and Africa as “these people from shithole countries.”
“The comments on immigration reported to have been said by the President are beyond inappropriate and offensive,” Fasano said in a statement issued by his office. “The Republican Party is one of inclusivity and rooted in the core value of providing all people the opportunity to achieve the American dream. The statements reported yesterday fly in the face of what it means to be a Republican and an American. The president should apologize for these disrespectful and outrageous comments.”
Fasano’s call is noteworthy because the state senator has tried to keep Connecticut Republicans from being drawn into controversies generated by Trump, both during the 2016 campaign and after Trump took office. Fasano, who declined to be a Trump delegate, has tried to keep the party’s focus on the state’s fiscal challenges.
The racial nature of the president’s statement — Trump reportedly asked why the U.S. could not accept more immigrants from nations like Norway, not those like Haiti — was particularly galling, Fasano said.
“This goes to the heart and soul of who I am and what I believe as a person,” Fasano said. “This affected me personally and emotionally and, therefore, I had to speak.”
His statement Friday was the not first time he has responded to the president. He criticized Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric at a press conference in December 2015 with politicians and religious leaders.
“Hate speech has no place in America,” Fasano said then. “When we have leaders preaching hate, there’s just no place in America, Republican or Democrat, it doesn’t matter. So, I’m proud to stand here in support.”
But Fasano grew tired of the constant cycle of a controversial Trump statement or Tweet and consequent demands of how Republicans viewed them. When video showing Trump crudely boasting of his ability as a celebrity to molest women surfaced a month before the election, Fasano said he felt no obligation to disavow a nominee he never supported.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy denounced Trump’s comments in a statement issued Thursday night:
“I am sickened and appalled by the reported statements made by President Trump, but not surprised. His comments are rooted in racism and intolerance. Moreover, they evidence a complete lack of compassion and an inability to empathize. Such comments are unbecoming of a U.S. President and bring shame to our nation. President Trump owes the people of America, and those of any nation he so crassly denigrated today, an apology. And all compassionate people have a moral obligation to repudiate such ignorant comments.”
Quoting sources present at a meeting with the president regarding immigration reform, the Washington Post and New York Times reported that Trump grew frustrated at the prospect of extending protections to immigrants from Haiti and other struggling nations where the majorities are black or Hispanic.
“Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” Trump said, according to the attendees.
The White House did not dispute the accounts Thursday. In a string of Tweets on Friday, Trump said they were inaccurate.
“The language used by me at the DACA meeting was tough, but this was not the language used,” he said in one Tweet. In another, he said, “Never said anything derogatory about Haitians other than Haiti is, obviously, a very poor and troubled country.”
DACA refers to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, an immigration policy that protected from deportation some people brought illegally to the U.S. as minors.
Trump’s denials on Twitter prompted U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., who was at the meeting, to go on television Friday morning saying the press reports were accurate.
“You’ve seen the comments in the press,” Durbin said. “I’ve not seen 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.”