WASHINGTON – US President Donald Trump paid tribute on Friday to Martin Luther King, one of the principal leaders of the civil rights movement, at a time when the chief executive faces accusations of racism for his supposed insult of Haiti, El Salvador and several African countries.
Trump refused to answer questions about the controversy during an event at the White House, when a reporter twice asked him, “Are you a racist?”
The act of homage to Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968) was planned long before the controversy arose about Trump’s remark, and came just before the annual holiday celebrated in the United States in his honor, which this year will be next Monday.
“Today, as we come together to honor Dr. King, we know that America is stronger, more just, and more free because of his life and work,” Trump said at the White House.
“Dr. King advocated for the world we still demand – where the sacred rights of all Americans are protected... and our limits and our opportunities are defined not by the color of our skin, but by the content of our character,” Trump said.
The president then signed the proclamation declaring next Monday a holiday and ignored questions from reporters about his supposed insult he made Thursday during a meeting of senators in the White House.
Trump denied Friday that he ever used the term “shithole countries” to describe Haiti, El Salvador and African nations, though he admitted using “tough” language in the meeting.
“Never said anything derogatory about Haitians other than Haiti is, obviously, a very poor and troubled country. Never said ‘take them out.’ Made up by Dems,” Trump said on his Twitter account.
Nonetheless, Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin, who was at the Thursday meeting in the White House, said Friday that Trump certainly did use that offensive term
After Trump took to tweeting to deny the accusation, Durbin replied by saying “It’s not true. He said these hate-filled things and he said them repeatedly.”