Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) defended President Donald Trump’s derogatory comments about Haiti and African nations last week, telling MSNBC Tuesday that conditions in Haiti are “disgusting.”
“I probably wouldn’t use the term — the President’s term,” he said, referencing reports that Trump called African countries “shithole countries.” “I will say the conditions in Haiti are deplorable. It’s disgusting. Everywhere you look in Haiti, it’s sheet metal and garbage when I was there.”
Gaetz’ defense of the President comes as Republicans grapple to get their story straight on what Trump said during an Oval Office meeting on immigration reform last week. The Washington Post was first to report that Trump questioned why the U.S. needed more Haitian immigrants and referred to African countries as “shithole countries.” Trump has denied he used that terminology, but admitted he used “tough” language during the meeting, with the White House claiming he’s passionate about pushing for a merit-based immigration system.
During the interview with MSNBC’s Chris Hayes Tuesday, Hayes asked Gaetz whether the President’s criticism of conditions in other countries is theoretically antithetical to his merit-based approach to immigration reform.
“If the idea of merit is the merit is of the person independent of the place they’re coming from, but if the President objects based on the condition of those countries that can’t connect back to merit, can it?” Hayes said.
“Well, I think the President is objecting as a consequence of those countries not contributing to the immigration process in America in a way that benefits our country principally,” Gaetz said. “The President indicated we’ll have an America-first immigration, not an agenda that looks at the needs of people in other countries rather than the needs of Americans.”