One week after the fallout, we still have no idea if President Trump actually asked, “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?”
Since reports of the president using racist remarks on Haiti and El Salvador first published, new details emerged claiming there were at least ten people the room. Almost immediately, first of those attendants, Sens. Dick Durbin, came out denouncing the “shithole” language. Next, two other senators, Tom Cotton and David Purdue, issued a joint statement denying such claim. Both said they “did not recall” hearing that specific “shithole” wording, but rather, “shithouse.”
The fourth and fifth witnesses were the president’s chief of staff, John Kelley, and the Homeland Security secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. The former hasn’t clarify what happened, but Nielsen told Congress that she “did not hear” the words, but she remembered the president used “rough talk” during the meeting. Though Nielsen wouldn’t go on to define the exact phrasing, her characterization mirrored the White House’s official response to the matter.
“Look, the president hasn’t said he didn’t use strong language. And this is an important issue,” Sarah Huckabee Sanders told the press. On Sunday night, Trump, the sixth of ten, sidestepped the question by insisting, “I am not a racist.” It came after he tweeted that “[shithole] was not the language used.”
What about Sen. Lindsey Graham, the seventh witness in the room? Durbin told MSNBC that Graham “spoke up and made a direct comment on what the president said.” On this part, Graham acknowledged. After the hearing Trump’s remark, “I said my piece directly to him…The president and all those attending the meeting know what I said and how I feel. I’ve always believed that America is an idea, not defined by its people but by its ideals.” At the same time, Graham didn’t to elaborate on Trump’s exact phrasing. He did, however, relayed the events to his fellow senator from North Carolina. As reported, Sen. Tim Scott said the media’s account of what happened inside the White House that day was “basically accurate.”
By insisting that there was a difference between “shithole” and “shithouse,” Cotton and Purdue have collectively denied the thrust of Trump’s racist sentiment. Together, they joined the growing club of Trump’s enablers by offering themselves as henchmen willingly to discredit the truth. Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart also sat in the room that day but refused to recount what happened because “I’m the only person from South Florida that has a seat at this table.” Diaz-Balart wanted to “solve” the immigration issue. “How does it help to point fingers or say names to the very people I have to quietly negotiate with?” he asked.
Congressman Kevin McCarthy was also there that day but offered no comment. He “stood stone-faced and quiet” as Trump told reporters that he was “not a racist.” And when the number two man of the GOP House refused to shed some light into the confusion, one can be sure to believe that the Republican leadership was in deep cahoot. It explained why Paul Ryan, who descended from an Irish immigrant family, did not outright condemned the remark and labeled it as “unhelpful” and “very unfortunate” instead.
The problem of enabling someone’s horrid lies is that it requires a complete follow-through. Homeland Security secretary Nielsen could not simply stop at telling Congress under oath that she did not recall the exact phrase Trump used, she had to pretend she did not know the majority population of Norway was white, too. ♦