U.S. President Donald Trump has suggested that he did not use the vulgar language that media reports said he uttered in a discussion on immigration.
Trump tweeted on January 12, after reports said he described immigrants from Africa and Haiti as coming from "shithole" countries at a meeting with lawmakers in the Oval Office the previous day.
"The language used by me at the...meeting was tough, but this was not the language used," Trump said on Twitter.
Media reports of the vulgar remark, which cited unnamed sources familiar with the meeting, generated a hail of criticism in the United States and abroad.
"There is no other word one can use but 'racist'," UN human rights spokesman Rupert Colville told reporters in Geneva when asked about the reported comments. "You cannot dismiss entire countries and continents as 'shitholes,' whose entire populations, who are not white, are therefore not welcome."
The alleged comment came during a meeting at which two senators presented details of a bipartisan compromise that would extend protections against deportation for hundreds of thousands of young immigrants and also strengthen border protections.
Senator Dick Durbin, a Democrat from Illinois, who was present at the White House immigration meeting, said "shitholes" was "the exact word used by the president, not just once but repeatedly."
Trump said that the United States should accept more immigrants from countries like Norway, the reports said.
White House spokesman Raj Shah did not deny that Trump made the remark, which drew criticism from Democrats and Republicans in Congress.
"Certain Washington politicians choose to fight for foreign countries, but President Trump will always fight for the American people," Shah said.
Representative Steny Hoyer of Maryland, a senior Democratic lawmaker, said that Trump's comments were "racist and a disgrace."
Republican Representative Mia Love of Utah, the daughter of Haitian immigrants, said Trump's reported remarks were "unacceptable from the leader of our nation" and called on him to apologize.
Based on reporting by AP, Reuters, AFP, and The Washington Post