STATE DEPARTMENT —
President Donald Trump's vulgar comments to U.S. lawmakers explaining his opposition to Haitian and African migrants has sparked outrage and condemnation at home and abroad.
U.N. human rights spokesman Rupert Colville called the comments racist. "It's about opening the door wider to humanity's worst side, about validating and encouraging racism and xenophobia that will potentially disrupt and destroy the lives of many people," he said.
Trump reportedly said migrants from Africa come from "s---hole countries," a remark Democratic Senator Richard Durbin of Illinois confirmed that Trump used during a meeting on immigration.
Friday, the African Union Mission in Washington issued a statement expressing "infuriation, disappointment and outrage over the unfortunate statement" made by Trump.
"The African Union Mission condemns the comments in the strongest terms and demands a retraction of the comment as well as an apology to not only to the Africans but to all people of African descent around the globe," the group said.
The mission said there is a "serious need for dialogue between the U.S. administration and the African countries" to address the administration's "huge misunderstanding of the African continent and its people."
The African National Congress, South Africa's ruling party, said Trump's remarks were "extremely offensive."
Raoul Peck, a Haitian-born director and former Haitian minister of culture, said he was "shocked, appalled and outraged" by Trump's remark.
"The responsibility of being the president of this great country is not a game nor a reality show," Peck tweeted. "It demands basic education, basic insight, a dose of humanity and some intelligence. Mr Trump does not and cannot pass any of these grades."
U.S. diplomats summoned
State Department officials said Friday that American diplomats in Haiti and in Botswana had been summoned by government officials to explain the remarks. Botswana issued a formal statement, seeking clarification on whether the United States truly regards the African country in the derogatory way reported.
Haiti's ambassador to the U.S., Paul G. Altidor, also condemned Trump's remarks.
"In the spirit of the people of Haiti we feel in the statements, if they were made, the president was either misinformed or miseducated about Haiti and its people," Altidor said in a written statement.
The State Department confirmed Friday that U.S. Ambassador to Panama John Feeley had stepped down, saying his resignation was in the works for some time. Reuters said Feeley wrote in his resignation letter that he could no longer serve under Trump in an apolitical fashion.
Asked about the ambassador's letter Friday, Undersecretary Steve Goldstein told reporters, "Everyone has a line they cannot cross. If that was his line, he was right to resign."
Goldstein said career U.S. diplomats care deeply about the people in the countries they serve. He added that Foreign Service officers continue their work as usual, though he acknowledged that job might be a little harder today after the controversy surrounding Trump's comments.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who spoke to new civil services employees on Friday, did not directly address the president's comments.
U.S. lawmakers speak out
In Congress, Black Caucus Chairman Cedric Richmond of Louisiana and fellow Democratic Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York said Friday that they planned to introduce a censure resolution next week to allow lawmakers to "speak with one voice" and "condemn President Trump for his racist statements."
Earlier in the day, Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin told a forum that he found the president's remarks "unfortunate and unhelpful" and said the U.S. should support the contributions of immigrants.
On Thursday, U.S. Republican Representative Mia Love, whose family came from Haiti, said the president's comments were "unkind, divisive, elitist, and fly in the face of our nation's values," and she called on Trump to apologize.
Republican Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida said it was "incomprehensible" a U.S. president would utter such remarks.
Minnesota state Representative Ilhan Omar, a Democrat who in 2016 became the first Somali-American elected to a state legislative office in the United States, said she was "disturbed" by the president's words.
Arizona Senator Jeff Flake, a Republican, tweeted late Thursday, "My ancestors came from countries not nearly as prosperous as the one we live in today. I'm glad that they were welcomed here."
The White House released a statement Thursday that defended the president's views, without referencing his specific comments.
"Like other nations that have merit-based immigration, President Trump is fighting for permanent solutions that make our country stronger by welcoming those who can contribute to our society, grow our economy and assimilate into our great nation. He will always reject temporary, weak and dangerous stopgap measures that threaten the lives of hardworking Americans, and undercut immigrants who seek a better life in the United States through a legal pathway."
VOA correspondents Margaret Besheer, Steve Herman, Michael Bowman and Katherine Gypson contributed to this report.