Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) says politicians and members of the media who call President Donald Trump “a racist” are imperiling a potential immigration deal between Democratic and Republican lawmakers.
″You can’t have an immigration compromise if everybody’s out there calling the president a racist,” Paul said during an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday. “They’re actually destroying the setting ... in which anything meaningful can happen on immigration.”
Trump faced fiery backlash after it was reported Thursday that he questioned why the United States should accept immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and “shithole countries” in Africa rather than from places like Norway during a meeting on immigration policy earlier in the day.
Despite two meeting attendees, Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), confirming the “shithole” reports, Trump has seemingly denied making those specific comments. While he admitted to using “tough” language during the meeting, Trump claimed he never said anything “derogatory” about Haitians.
World leaders and Democratic lawmakers erupted in outrage over Trump’s alleged remarks, including Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), who called the president “a racist” during an appearance Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.”
But Paul said Sunday that it was “unfair” to describe Trump as a racist.
“I don’t think the comments were constructive at all, but I also think that, to be fair, we shouldn’t draw conclusions that he didn’t intend,” Paul said.
Last week wasn’t the first time Trump has been accused of being racist. During his 2016 presidential campaign, Trump referred to Mexican immigrants as drug dealers and “rapists” and repeatedly called for a ban on Muslim immigrants. Before entering politics, Trump was repeatedly accused of discriminating against black people throughout his real estate career. He was also a driving force behind the birther movement, a racist conspiracy theory claiming former President Barack Obama wasn’t born in the U.S.
Meanwhile, Trump has already dubbed the immigration talks as “probably dead.”
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story indicated Rep. John Lewis represents Illinois. In fact, he represents Georgia.