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Columnists are rarely presented with situations to freely use a crude word or term without worrying about an editorâ€™s dreaded red pen. Hence, Iâ€™m going to take full advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!
Whatâ€™s this in reference to? U.S. President Donald Trumpâ€™s alleged use of the derogatory phrase â€œshithole countriesâ€ to describe some Central American and African nations.
Hereâ€™s what reportedly happened.
After a successful bipartisan meeting with Democratic and Republican leaders last week, things broke down in a closed-door session about immigration reform. When the topic of conversation shifted to Haiti, El Salvador and Africa, the president apparently said, â€œWhy are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?â€
According to sources, Trumpâ€™s preference was to look at immigration opportunities with countries like Norway â€“ which was likely mentioned because he had recently met with Prime Minister Erna Solberg â€“ and throughout Asia.
He then started to focus on Haiti. â€œWhy do we need more Haitians?â€ Trump apparently said, and claimed the U.S. should â€œ[t]ake them out.â€
Is this true? Trump denied using this phrase on Twitter and told reporters last Sunday, â€œI am not a racist.â€ The jury is still out among some of the attendees, however.
Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin said he was appalled by the presidentâ€™s â€œhate-filled, vile and racistâ€ remarks. Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham said the reports were â€œbasically accurate.â€
Yet Republican Senators David Perdue and Tom Cotton issued a joint statement noting they didnâ€™t â€œrecall the president saying those comments specifically.â€ Last weekend, Perdue told ABCâ€™s This Week, â€œI am telling you that he did not use that word. And Iâ€™m telling you itâ€™s a gross misrepresentation.â€ Cotton said on CBSâ€™s Face the Nation he didnâ€™t hear this term â€œand I was sitting no further away from Donald Trump than Dick Durbin was.â€
Thereâ€™s also some debate whether Trump used the word â€œshitholeâ€ or â€œshithouse.â€ For the sake of accuracy, someone should figure it out â€“ but Iâ€™m not sure it really matters.
This controversy was the straw that broke the orange-haired camelâ€™s back for some people. They would probably stand with CNN anchor Don Lemon, who opened his Jan. 11 newscast with this hyperbolic line: â€œThe president of the United States is racist.â€
I donâ€™t know whatâ€™s in Trumpâ€™s heart or in his head. While thereâ€™s no question heâ€™s made some offensive remarks over the years (including this one) and rarely chooses his words very well, itâ€™s more than likely another example of his intemperate behaviour and the fact he has no filter.
Oxford Dictionary defines â€œshitholeâ€ as an â€œextremely dirty, shabby, or otherwise unpleasant place.â€ While it was an exceedingly poor choice of words by the president to describe the difficult situation faced in impoverished countries like Haiti, itâ€™s not necessarily racist in this particular instance.
Yes, this controversy isnâ€™t going to move the needle in the slightest with Trumpâ€™s supporters. And yes, as Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Steve Goldstein told CNN on Jan. 15, Trump â€œhas the right to make whatever remarks he wants and we respect the president,â€ but diplomats will need to â€œreaffirm that the U.S. remains committed to its relationships with these countries and cares deeply about their people.â€
Nevertheless, why did Trump use this vulgar term (or whatever he ultimately said) in public? It doesnâ€™t matter whether you agree or disagree with his assessment. I think we can all accept there were better ways for him to make his point with cleaner language â€“ and without creating a short-term international incident.
Wishful thinking on my part? Perhaps, but it would have prevented these regions from being forever known as, for the final time in this column, â€œshithole countries.â€
Troy Media columnist and political commentator Michael Taube is also a Washington Times contributor, Canadian Jewish News columnist, and radio and TV pundit. He was also a speechwriter for former Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
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