“I personally don’t think that President Trump is a racist in traditional sense,” Isaac Newton Farris Jr. told CNN. “I think that President Trump is racially uninformed or racially ignorant.”
Farris Jr., who serves as president and CEO of the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change, said he met privately in the Oval Office with Trump and Dr. Ben Carson, U.S. secretary of Housing and Urban Development and the sole African-American member of Trump’s Cabinet. According to Farris Jr., Trump assured them that “I am not the person that the media is making me out to be.”
The comments come amid international outage over a Washington Post report that Trump referred to people from Haiti, El Salvador and African nations as coming from “shithole countries” country during an Oval Office meeting with lawmakers about U.S. immigration policy on Thursday.
“Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” Trump said, according to the newspaper, which cited “several people briefed on the meeting.”
According to the Post, Trump then suggested that the U.S. “should instead bring more people from countries such as Norway.”
Trump disputed the Post’s account, tweeting that he “never said anything derogatory about Haitians.” The president also insisted that while he used “tough” language during the meeting, he did not make the “shithole” remark as reported.
Among the senators who attended the meeting, two of them, Republicans Tom Cotton of Arkansas and David Perdue of Georgia, said they “don’t recall” Trump’s reported remarks “specifically.” Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., supported the gist of the Post’s story.
In a statement, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said that “the president’s expressed desire to see more immigrants from countries like Norway must be called out for what it is: an effort to set this country back generations by promoting a homogeneous, white society.”
Before signing the proclamation, Trump praised the slain civil rights leader for “standing up for the 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.”
As he left the room, Trump ignored a number of shouted questions from reporters. Among them: “Mr. President, are you a racist?”