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President Trump is denying using vulgar phrase at an immigration meeting Carolyn Kaster/AP hide caption

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Carolyn Kaster/AP

President Trump is denying reports, from NPR and other news outlets, that in a Thursday meeting at the White House, he disparaged African nations as “shithole countries,” and questioned why the United States would admit immigrants from them and other nations, like Haiti.

Trump told lawmakers that the U.S. should instead seek out more immigrants from countries like Norway.

A White House statement issued Thursday notably did not deny that Trump used the vulgarity to refer to African countries, but Friday morning, Trump shifted gears.

“This was not the language used,” Trump said in a tweet.

He went on to criticize the tentative bipartisan agreement drafted by Illinois Democrat Dick Durbin, Arizona Republican Jeff Flake and four other senators.

Trump blasted the proposal as “a big step backwards,” and said it didn’t provide enough funding for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, a key campaign promise Trump made in 2016.

Earlier in the week, Trump had assured lawmakers that he would accept any agreement crafted by Congress.

“I will be signing,” he said in a Cabinet Room meeting Tuesday. “I’m not going to say, ‘Oh, gee, I want this or that. I’ll be signing it.”

In the wake of Trump’s comments, attention has shifted away from the contents of a proposed DACA deal to a statement many view as racist.

“President Trump’s comments are racist and a disgrace,” said Maryland Rep. Steny Hoyer, the second-ranking Democrat in the House. “They do not reflect our nation’s values.”

Democratic Rep. Cedric Richmond of Louisiana, who chairs the Congressional Black Caucus, said the latest statement is “yet another confirmation of [Trump’s] racially insensitive and ignorant views.”

He added, “[The] president’s slogan Make America Great Again is really code for Make America White Again.”

Many Republicans also criticized Trump.

Utah Republican Rep. Mia Love, whose family descended from Haiti, called the president’s comments “unkind, divisive [and] elitist.”

They “fly in the face of our nation’s values,” Love added. “This behavior is unacceptable from the leader of our nation.”

Fellow Utahan, Sen. Orrin Hatch, a staunch Trump ally, said: “I look forward to getting a more detailed explanation regarding the president’s comments. Part of what makes America so special is that we welcome the best and brightest in the world, regardless of their country of origin.”