The White House and its surrogates appear to be coalescing around a particularly hot take regarding President Donald Trump’s reported “shithole” remarks: Trump actually used the phrase “shithouse countries” to describe African nations, Haiti and El Salvador.
Like other excuses for Trump’s latest racist immigration remarks, this one is very, uh, shitty.
The line of argument began over the weekend, after GOP Sens. David Perdue (Ga.) and Tom Cotton (Ark.) denied Trump had called the places “shithole countries” during an Oval Office meeting on immigration reform. Instead, according to a tweet from the Washington Post’s Josh Dawsey, the senators maybe heard Trump say “shithouse.”
Such parsing is a clear departure from Trump’s approach ― which has been to reject the reports outright and claim once again he is “the least racist person” ― so it wasn’t immediately clear why the specific fecal phrase mattered.
On Tuesday, however, the “hole” versus “house” debate took another twist, as some Republicans reportedly began claiming the two phrases could be interpreted differently ― with “house” being less bad.
But this scandal was never about Trump using profanity. It was about a president with a lengthy history of racist comments making clear that racial stereotypes about majority black and brown nations are actively guiding his approach to immigration policy. Trump’s obvious antipathy toward those countries continues to serve as an ideological underpinning for an agenda that would allow fewer of their residents into the U.S., while instead favoring people from whiter countries. (Trump reportedly suggested during the meeting that the U.S. should bring in more people from places like Norway.)
It was this troubling sentiment that drew widespread condemnation from figures across the political spectrum, who saw Trump’s comments as contrary to American ideals that supposedly value diversity and espouse compassion for the less fortunate.
Whether Trump said “shithole” or “shithouse,” this meaningless debate is total bullshit.