President Donald Trump’s derogatory statements on Thursday about a number of countries are echoing through the Florida political landscape.
Friday morning, Donald Trump took to twitter to dispute a Washington Post story which says the President used obscene language to describe Haiti, El Salvador, and a number of African countries as a bipartisan group of lawmakers unveiled an immigration measure.
Shortly afterward, one of the deal’s architects, Illinois Democratic Senator Dick Durbin, fired back.
“As Senator Graham made his presentation the president interrupted him several times with questions, and in the course of his comments said things which were hate-filled, vile and racist,” Durbin says.
“I use those words advisedly,” he goes on, “I understand how powerful they are. But I cannot believe that in the history of the White House and that oval office any president has ever spoken the words that I heard our president speak yesterday.”
Trump’s comments are now resonating through Florida politics. Governor Rick Scott, an early and staunch Trump supporter, is distancing himself from the president—issuing a statement that says “If this report is true, it is absolutely wrong to say or think this. I do not think this way, nor do I agree with this kind of sentiment.”
A bipartisan group of House lawmakers led by Speaker Richard Corcoran issued another statement saying quote “America’s greatness is self-evident. We do not need to tear down other nations.”
But among Democrats, the response has been heated.
“President Trump referred to African countries, Haiti and El Salvador as shithole countries,” Sen. Daphne Campbell says. The Miami Democrat was born in Haiti.
“He then suggested that the United States should instead bring more people from countries like Norway,” she says. “Why? Because they look like him.”
“It appears president Trump doesn’t have a problem with immigrants—he has a problem with immigrants of color.”
Campbell and Rep. Al Jacquet (D-Lantana) are particularly discouraged by Trump’s timing—just as people are making the eighth anniversary of the 2010 earthquake that devastated Haiti.
“So while we were preparing to be having a press conference in remembrance of the half a million people who lost their lives—countless displaced,” Jacquet says, “we’re addressing the degrading, demoralizing, disgusting remarks by someone who is supposed to be the face of our great nation.”
And while some officials call for an official apology, Sen. Bobby Powell (D-West Palm Beach) takes a harder line.
“We don’t ask you, we’re telling you,” Powell says.
“Because it’s necessary. At some point you can’t do what you think, you have to do what’s right. And today I stand unified with everyone behind me, and everyone you don’t see and we demand an apology.”
Trump’s presidential campaign was, at times, a daily reminder of his aversion to apologies. With some lawmakers present at the oval office meeting refusing to confirm Trump’s comments, and two more contending they simply don’t recall, it seems unlikely a presidential mea culpa is forthcoming.