Comments made behind closed doors in the Oval Office by President Donald Trump have reverberated throughout the world, leaving American officials scrambling to contain the damage.
Mr Trump was reported Thursday as having called Haiti and African nations “s***hole countries” during a meeting with Congressional leadership as they discussed proposals for an immigration policy overhaul.
The specific comments — which Mr Trump later denied specifically, though, perhaps not in tone — have led America’s diplomatic efforts to engage in damage control, while foreign nations and critics have heaped on criticism.
“The US deeply respects the people of #Africa & values partnerships w/ them. There has been no change in our dedication to partners & friends across the Continent,” the US embassy in South Africa tweeted following the reports. “We remain committed to working together to realise the promise of a more prosperous 21st century Africa.”
The US State Department's office of African Affairs tweeted similar sentiments.
"The United States will continue to robustly, enthusiastically and forcefully engage in #Africa, promoting this vital relationship, and to listen and build on the trust and views we share with our African partners," the office tweeted.
In Haiiti, the top US official there was reportedly summoned to meet with Haiti's president to explain the President's remarks. That official, Robin Diallo, is planning on reiterating America's strong relationship with Haiti, and on listening to the Haitian leader's concerns, according to an US official.
And, while the American media has been hesitant to call Mr Trump’s actions and comments in the White House “racist”, others had no problem with doing so following the recently alleged comments. US diplomats may have been scrambling to right the ship, but the criticisms were coming in like a tidal wave.
“There is no other word one can use but ‘racist’… This isn’t just a story about vulgar language, it’s about opening the door to humanity’s worst side, about validating and encouraging racism and xenophobia,” Rupert Colville, the spokesman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said. “You cannot dismiss entire countries and continents as ’s***holes’, whose entire populations, who are not white, are therefore not welcome.”
The African Union also joined in to note the overtly racist tones.
"Given the historical reality of how many Africans arrived in the United States as slaves, this statement flies in the face of all accepted behaviour and practice," Ebba Kalondo, a spokesman for the union, said. "This is particularly surprising as the United States of America remains a global example of how migration gave birth to a nation built on strong values of diversity of opportunity."
Reports surfaced indicating that Mr Trump had used the vulgar language while meeting with several top members of Congress, wondering out loud why the United States should accept immigrants from Haiti or Africa — and why the US can’t only accept people from places like Norway. Mr Trump had recently met with the leader of Norway.
The President, according to sources who had been in the room, was particularly upset with the American visa lottery system, which he has frequently denounced publicly.
America’s visa lottery system was created in 1996 with he passage of the Immigration Act, which sought to create greater immigration diversity for the US. While the President has said that the program allows countries to send over their “worst” people, the program does impose specific educational or training requirements to qualify, which can be met with two years of training or work experience or a high school degree.
The program is separate from Temporary Protected Status designations, which have allowed people from Haiti and El Salvador to receive temporary legal status in the US. The Trump administration has lifted those protections for those countries, thrusting the legal future of nearly a million people who have benefited from the program into question.
Mr Trump’s “sh***hole” comments led some countries to throw some shade at the President by way of a formal inquiry. Botswana, for instance, released a statement condemning the comments and pointing out that the two countries have enjoyed an amicable relationship — and regularly see citizens travel between the two.
“The Botswana Government has also enquired from the US Government through the Ambassador, to clarify if Botswana is regarded as a ’s***hole’ country given that there are Botswana nationals residing in the US, and also that some of Botswana may wish to visit the US,” the release read.
The former prime minister of Haiti, Laurent Lamothe, who resigned in 2014, attempted to shame Mr Trump.
“SHAME ON TRUMP! The world is witnessing a new low today with this #S***holeNations remark! totally unacceptable! uncalled for moreover it shows a lack [of] respect and IGNORANCE never seen before in the recent history of the US by any President”” he tweeted. “Enough is enough!!”
As for Norway, the country that Mr Trump held up as the example of the kind of place he’d like to receive immigrants from, they weren’t sold on the President’s deal.
“On behalf of Norway: Thanks, but no thanks,” Torbjoern Saetre, a politician in Norway’s Conservative Party, tweeted.
“We are not coming. Cheers from Norway,” one woman wrote.