Republican Rep. Erik Paulsen chides President Trump for calling African, Haitian nations 'shitholes'

The president sparked fury with his comments on Thursday.
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The president sparked fury with his comments on Thursday.

Fearful of his base, all but a handful of Republican politicians have been careful not to publicly criticize President Trump too often since his election.

But the president's remarks made during a bipartisan meeting with senators on Thursday appears to have been a step too far for 3rd Congressional District Rep. Erik Paulsen.

The president reportedly asked why America was offering protection to immigrants from "those shithole countries" – including African nations, Haiti and El Salvador – adding that the U.S. should have more people coming in from places like Norway," the Washington Post reports.

On Thursday evening, Paulsen called on the White House to apologize for what he called "degrading comments."

Paulsen's fellow Minnesota Republican House delegation members, Reps. Tom Emmer and Jason Lewis, have not made a comment on Trump's remarks.

Unsurprisingly, there has been plenty of reaction from Democrats in Minnesota, including new Minnesota Senator Tina Smith.

St. Paul mayor Melvin Carter also had his say, as did state Rep. Ilhan Omar, herself a refugee from Somalia.

'The president of the United States is racist'

As much as the vulgarity is grabbing the headlines, the president's preference for immigrants from "Norway" – a predominantly white nation – adds to the weight of racially-charged statements made by Trump.

Many are now openly calling the president a racist. 

"If confirmed these are shocking and shameful comments from the President of the United States," Rupert Coleville, a spokesman for the United Nations, told the Independent.

"There is no other word you 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."

On CNN Thursday night, host Don Lemon started his broadcast with: "The president of the United States is racist. A lot of us already knew that."

"For years I and others have been trying to tell you the American people that this man was exhibiting bigoted behavior," he continued. "I asked him about it a number of times but he denied it, and kept up the racist rhetoric and behavior throughout the campaign and now, well he's in the White House."

The president denies it

Initially, in response to reports about his "shithole" comment, White House spokesman Raj Shah did not deny it when asked by NBC News: "Certain Washington politicians choose to fight for foreign countries, but President Trump will always fight for the American people.

But on Friday morning, Trump issued a denial, saying he used "tough language" but "this was not the language used." 

In any case, multiple senators – including Democrats – heard him make the "shithole" comment at the meeting.

A White House official also told CNN that Trump's comments are being received differently inside the White House than outside of it, with staffers predicting the comment "will resonate with his base" in the same way his attacks on (black) NFL players did for their National Anthem protests against police brutality.

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