US President Donald Trump gives a thumbs-up to reporters as he boards Air Force One.
(photo credit: CARLOS BARRIA / REUTERS)
NEW YORK – American Jewish groups are slamming President Donald Trump for allegedly making disparaging comments about immigrants from third world countries.
The remarks were uttered during a White House meeting with congressmen, with Trump questioning why the US would accept more immigrants from Haiti and “s***hole countries” in Africa, The Washington Post reported on Thursday.
Rabbis Marvin Hier and Abraham Cooper, founder and dean, and associate dean, of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, respectively, said on Friday, “Such vulgar language and sentiment are inappropriate. President Trump should withdraw the statement and apologize.”
Hier’s rebuke came nearly a year after he delivered a benediction at Trump’s inauguration, saying ahead of the ceremony that “it was the menschlichkeit [honorable] thing to do.”
The Anti-Defamation League also called the president’s alleged statement “shameful and profoundly offensive,” adding that it was “beneath the dignity of the office.”
Former ADL national director Abe Foxman tweeted hours later: “POTUS it matters not what countries we came from
to America. The sum total of our contributions made and make America great!” Meanwhile, the American Jewish Committee said while it was “True [that] we can’t accept everyone... all deserve the chance to try” and “pursue the American dream and contribute their talents to our nation of immigrants.”
Jewish American pundit and Republican commentator Bill Kristol, who has been a longtime critic of the president, tweeted: “Two weeks ago a 26-year-old soldier raced repeatedly into a burning Bronx apartment building, saving four people before he died in the flames. His name was Private Emmanuel Mensah and he immigrated from Ghana, a country Donald Trump apparently thinks produces very subpar immigrants.”
Rabbi Jonah Pesner of the US Reform Movement’s Religious Action Center said what was “deeply offensive” was Trump’s “lack of compassion or understanding of what makes the US a beacon for all seeking freedom, safety and opportunity.”
The J Street lobbying group declared, “Trump is unfit to lead this great, diverse nation of immigrants from every walk of life.”
On Friday, Trump denied using the word “s***hole” to describe Haiti and African countries during the previous day’s meeting on immigration reform, but admitted to using “tough” language while speaking to Senate lawmakers.
“The language used by me at the DACA meeting was tough, but this was not the language used,” Trump tweeted.
Trump also denied saying “anything derogatory about Haitians other than Haiti is, obviously, a very poor and troubled country.”
“What was really tough was the outlandish proposal made – a big setback for DACA!” the US president said on Twitter.
A group of Republican and Democratic senators has been working for months to craft legislation that would protect 700,000 young adults who were brought into the US illegally as children and later shielded from deportation under a program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.
The Republican president’s comments were also decried as racist by African and Haitian politicians, by the United Nations human rights office and by US lawmakers from both major parties.
Reuters contributed to this report.