President Trump on Sunday told a group of reporters that he is not a racist. In fact, he is the "least racist person you have ever interviewed," he said, before heading to dinner at his Trump International Golf Club in Palm Beach.
The statement followed several days of uproar in response to a report that Trump called Haiti, El Salvador, and African nations "shitholes" during a Thursday meeting on immigration policy. Trump has denied he made the comment, though the White House has not.
Also on Sunday, a handful of Republican leaders, including Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.), Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, insisted Trump did not use that word. "Did you see what various senators in the room said about my comments?" Trump asked, according to The Associated Press. "They weren't made."
The controversy comes at a tense time: Lawmakers are scrambling to pull together a spending deal this week to avoid a looming government shutdown on Saturday. Immigration remains one of the stickiest issues in this debate, with Democrats hoping to use the deal to protect from deportation hundreds of thousands of "DREAMers" brought to the U.S. illegally as children, in exchange for border security funds. The talks stalled after Trump's reported vulgar remarks. Trump on Saturday blamed the impasse on Democrats, saying they are "all talk and no action."
This isn't the first time Trump has vehemently denied any racist tendencies. During a news conference last year, he called himself "the least anti-Semitic person that you've ever seen in your entire life."