Enraged by the number of people receiving visas to enter the United States, President Trump made disparaging remarks about Haitian and Nigerian immigrants during an Oval Office meeting earlier this year, according to a report published Saturday by the New York Times. While complaining about the number of Haitian immigrants in the U.S., Trump reportedly claimed they "all have AIDS" before charging that those who'd come from Nigeria would never "go back to their huts" once they'd seen the United States.
According to the Times, President Trump's remarks came during a June meeting with his national security team in which the president read numbers off a document handed to him by his senior advisor for policy, Stephen Miller. The document reportedly showed how many immigrants had been issued visas to the U.S. in the first half of 2017. Along with commenting on Haitian and Nigerian visa holders, President Trump also reportedly expressed annoyance with the number of people who'd received visas to enter the United States from Afghanistan.
On Saturday, the White House denied the allegations and condemned the Times for printing "lies." In a statement to the newspaper, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, National Security Adviser Gen. H.R. McMaster, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, and other staff present during the meeting denied the "outrageous" claim that President Trump had made disparaging comments about immigrants or foreign travelers during the June meeting. "It's both sad and telling The New York Times would print the lies of their anonymous 'sources' anyway," she said.
According to the Times, two officials — one who'd attended the meeting personally and another who'd been briefed about Trump's remarks by a different attendee — confirmed the president's comments regarding Haitian and Nigerian visa holders. The officials requested anonymity from the news outlet due to the sensitive nature of the Oval Office meeting.
The Times also reported that "several participants in the meeting told Times reporters that they did not recall the president using those words and did not think he had." However, the paper noted "the two officials who described the comments found them so noteworthy that they related them to others at the time."
Although it's unclear if the Times' report is 100 percent true, this wouldn't be the first time Trump has made disparaging remarks about noncitizens. When announcing his candidacy for president in June 2015, Trump lashed out at Mexico for "sending people that have lots of problems" across the border into the United States. Trump went on to describe immigrants from Mexico as criminals, rapists, and drug smugglers.
And in an interview conducted later that same month with CNN's State of the Union, Trump defended his plan to double down on immigration with claims there were "killers and rapists" coming in from all over. "You have people coming through the border that are from all over. And they're bad. They're really bad," Trump told State of the Union host Jake Tapper. "You have people coming in, and I'm not just saying Mexicans, I'm talking about people that are from all over that are killers and rapists and they're coming into this country."
Throughout his presidential campaign, Trump vowed to push an aggressive immigration agenda, often characterizing immigrants as the source of America's problems. Yet since taking office in January, Trump has struggled to implement some of his promised immigration policies, which include launching a so-called "deportation force," building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, banning Muslim travelers and immigrants, and deporting millions of immigrants who have criminal records.