According to a report from NBC News, President Trump subjected an Asian-American intelligence analyst to an awkward exchange in their first-ever meeting, and in keeping with recent news regarding the president, his comments had a decidedly racist edge. During the meeting, Trump reportedly asked the Asian analyst about her ethnicity, and upon learning her parents were Korean, asked his aide why this "pretty Korean lady" wasn't negotiating with North Korean officials for his administration.
The meeting reportedly took place in the Oval Office, as the analyst was briefing Trump about the upcoming release of a family being held captive in Pakistan. Once she was done with the briefing, according to NBC News, Trump asked: "Where are you from?"
The analyst reportedly first said she was from New York, an answer that did not satisfy him. Then, she told him that she was from Manhattan like him. Finally, Trump put the question more plainly, asking the analyst where "your people" were from.
She reportedly responded that her parents were Korean, leading Trump to wonder aloud why the "pretty Korean lady" ― who was an intelligence official briefing him on events in Pakistan ― wasn't involved in the administration's negotiations with North Korea.
NBC News says they received this story in the aftermath of Trump's widely condemned racist remarks on Thursday. During a meeting regarding immigration, Trump balked at protections for immigrants from what he reportedly called "sh*thole countries" like Haiti, El Salvador, and throughout Africa, while insisting the U.S. needed more immigrants from countries like Norway, which is overwhelmingly white.
The implications of the story are fairly straightforward. Faced with an Asian-American intelligence analyst, Trump fixated on her ethnicity, and went so far as to suggest that her Korean heritage should dictate her professional career path. That, simply defined, is the very textbook definition of a racist reaction, and the story is coming hot on the heels of the other major racism controversy he set off just one day earlier.
Specifically, Trump is currently facing intense scrutiny over a widely reported history of racist remarks, set off by The Washington Post's report on Thursday about his derogatory attacks on immigrants from places like Haiti, El Salvador, and throughout Africa. As for Friday's NBC News report, the notion that somebody's racial background should be a component in what they do for a living is an outlook Trump's reportedly expressed before.
In a 1991 book by John O'Donnell, the president of Trump's now-defunct Atlantic City casino, Trump was quoted as preferring Jewish accountants to African-American ones, indulging time-worn racist stereotypes about both groups.
As German Lopez detailed for Vox on Friday, Trump initially denied having made those remarks, and O'Donnell was a former employee writing a very caustic book. But years later told Playboy magazine that what O'Donnell wrote about him was "probably true," while attacking him as a "loser."
Although the White House's initial statement on Trump's reported comments about immigrants on Thursday did not include a denial, the president himself took to Twitter on Friday morning to insist that what was reported was "not the language used."
The White House also forcefully denied a report in Dec. 2016 which claimed Trump made similarly racist comments, saying Haitian immigrants "all have AIDS," and that Nigerian immigrants who experienced the U.S. would "never go back to their huts."
Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, a Democrat, has insisted that Trump said exactly what was reported. Meanwhile, Republican Sens. Tom Cotton and David Perdue claimed they "did not recall" whether the president used the word "sh*thole" in reference to Haiti, El Salvador, and countries throughout Africa.