While discussing a potential bipartisan deal on DACA Thursday, President Trump reportedly referred to Haiti, El Salvador, and African nations as "sh*thole countries," and asked why America should accept immigrants from those places. This prompted an immediate and fierce pushback, and CNN host Anderson Cooper's response to Trump's "sh*thole countries" comment was amongst the most powerful.
"Perhaps the White House feels the president's remarks will be well received in some parts of this country, among some parts of the president's base," Cooper said in a monologue on Thursday evening. "But it doesn't make what he said any less ignorant or any less racist. Not racial. Not racially charged. Racist. Let's not kid ourselves. Let's not pretend or dance around it. The sentiment the president expressed today is a racist sentiment."
Cooper went on, and nearly teared up while reflecting on the cataclysmic earthquake that struck Haiti in 2010 and the hard work that Haitians put in to rebuild their country.
“I was there when a young girl named Bee was trapped in rubble for nearly a day was rescued by people who had no heavy equipment. They just had their God-given strength and determination and their courage. I was there when — ” at which point Cooper's voice cracked and he paused “when a 5 year-old boy ... was rescued after being buried for more than seven days. Do you know what kind of strength it takes to survive on rain water, buried under concrete? A 5-year-old boy, for seven days?”
Cooper wasn’t the only high profile figure to forcefully condemn the president’s remarks. News anchor Dan Rather called the comment “disgraceful for [Trump], the country, and every American,” while Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal said that it “smacks of blatant racism.”
Republican Rep. Carlos Curbela demanded that the White House “immediately explain the situation and leave no doubt regarding what was said and in what context.” The White House did address the remarks, and didn’t deny that Trump had made them.
“Certain Washington politicians choose to fight for foreign countries, but President Trump will always fight for the American people," Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah told NBC in a statement. “He will always reject temporary, weak and dangerous stopgap measures that threaten the lives of hardworking Americans, and undercut immigrants who seek a better life in the United States through a legal pathway."
The Washington Post reported that, although Trump mentioned various countries in the meeting, he specifically singled out Haiti, saying, "why do we need more Haitians? Take them out." In his monologue Thursday, Cooper spoke at length about the time he’s spent in Haiti as a reporter, and defended Haitians' resilience and fortitude in face of trying, often horrific conditions.
“Like all countries, Haiti is a collection of people — rich and poor, well-educated and not, good and bad,” the host said. “But I’ve never met a Haitian who wasn’t strong. You have to be to survive in a place where the government has often abandoned its people. Where opportunities are few and where Mother Nature has punished the people far more than anyone to ever be punished.”
Cooper continued: “But let me be clear tonight. The people of Haiti have been through more. They’ve been through more, and withstood more. They’ve fought back against more injustice than our president ever has."
While Trump's "sh*thole countries" remarks were condemned in their own right, he also faced criticism for reportedly saying that the U.S. should have more people from Norway coming here. The fact that Trump praised immigrants from a predominantly white country while criticizing those from Haiti was not lost on Cooper.
"The president of the United States is tired of so many black people coming to this country," Cooper said. "Tired of immigrants from Haiti and Africa being allowed in. Tired of Haitians and Africans, the president went on to say he would like to bring more people from countries like Norway. Norway, whose population is overwhelmingly of Nordic descent. White people, in other words."
Trump, for his part, has categorically dismissed all accusations of racism, telling CNN in 2015 that he is "the least racist person that you have ever met."