US President Donald Trump once again had to defend himself from accusations of being racist after the insulting remarks he made concerning several countries as the United States celebrates civil rights hero Martin Luther King on Monday.
The controversy has fueled the debate over the status of hundreds of thousands of immigrants in the United States, on which a bipartisan agreement in Congress seems more and more unlikely, at a month and a half from a crucial deadline.
“I’m not a racist, I’m the least racist person you’ve ever interviewed,” the president told a reporter Sunday night at his golf club in West Palm Beach, Florida, where he was having dinner with congressman Kevin McCarthy.
These statements echoed the controversy over what he said on Thursday at a meeting with a group of Senators. “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” He asked, referring to countries in Africa, Haiti and El Salvador.
The billionaire denied Friday to have used this expression, but was contradicted by elected representatives of the Republican majority and the Democratic opposition.
Since entering politics in June 2015, Trump has been accused of racism on several occasions. During his campaign, he accused Mexico of “sending” criminals to the United States, especially “rapists”. He has also attacked Muslims several times, even more recently by retweeting anti-Muslim videos of dubious origin.
In August last year, he failed to clearly condemn neo-Nazi groups whose rally ended with the death of a woman, intentionally hit by the vehicle of a white supremacist.
On Monday, many have drawn from the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to send messages to the President. Former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney also spoke of Dr King’s memory, while explaining that “the sentiment attributed to the President of the United States is not consistent with American history and constitutes the ‘antithesis of American values’.
As thousands of events unfolded across the country to honor the hero of the civil rights struggle, shot and killed on April 4, 1968, Donald Trump’s decision to attend his golf club in Palm Beach instead has been highly criticized.
Basketball star LeBron James said Donald Trump had “given racist people” the opportunity to unveil and speak without fear. In a video message recorded and published on Monday, the Cleveland Cavaliers’ star spoke about Martin Luther King and called on his fans to “perpetuate his message of justice, equality and freedom.”
Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren also called the President a racist. “Donald Trump is a racist bully, and we know how to deal with bullies. We don’t back down. We don’t shut up. We fight back,” she said at the Boston’s annual breakfast honoring Martin Luther King, Jr. in Boston, according to the Boston Globe.
Several Democratic representatives have already announced that they will not attend Donald Trump’s State of the Union speech to Congress on January 30, including John Lewis, who has been fighting for civil rights over the years.