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Wednesday December 12th, 2018 2:50AM

The Latest: Ryan calls Trump's use of slur 'unfortunate'

By The Associated Press
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WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on President Trump and immigration (all times local):

12:50 p.m.

House Speaker Paul Ryan says that President Donald Trump's vulgar slur about Africa was "very unfortunate, unhelpful."

The Wisconsin Republican was referring to Trump's asking during an Oval Office meeting with lawmakers why the U.S. should admit more immigrants from "shithole countries" like Africa.

Trump on Friday denied using certain "language," but didn't offer more specifics. Illinois Democratic Sen. Richard Durbin said Friday that Trump "said these hate-filled things and he said them repeatedly."

Ryan said his ancestors were Irish and "were really looked down upon." He called immigration "a great story" and said Haitians in his hometown of Janesville, Wisconsin, are "incredible citizens."

Ryan made his remark Friday at a public forum at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

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12:45 p.m.

GOP leaders are staying quiet while more moderate Republicans are speaking out against President Donald Trump's incendiary comments in a White House meeting Thursday about "shithole" countries in Africa.

Florida GOP Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said Trump's alleged comments were "completely unacceptable," telling WPLG-TV in Miami that "if that's not racism, I don't know how you can define it."

Moderate GOP Sen. Susan Collins of Maine chimed in on Twitter to call Trump's remarks "highly inappropriate & out of bounds." She said they are hurting prospects for a bipartisan agreement on immigration.

And Idaho Republican Mike Simpson told The Associated Press that Trump's remarks were "stupid and irresponsible and childish."

Simpson added that, "this is a big deal. America's influence and power in the world has really been about our ability to persuade because of our leadership, and he's just destroying that."

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12 p.m.

President Donald Trump did not respond to questions about his use of a vulgarity or his question about why the U.S. should accept more immigrants from Haiti and African nations than from countries like Norway.

The questions came Friday in the White House when Trump signed a proclamation honoring Martin Luther King Jr. Day, noting the contributions of a "great American hero."

Trump did not respond to several questions about the incident, including whether he actually used vulgar language to describe African nations, or if he is racist.

The president said at the White House that "love was central" to the slain civil rights leader. Trump said the nation celebrates King for "standing up for the self-evident truth Americans hold so dear, that no matter what the color of our skin or place of our birth, we are all created equal by God."

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11:50 a.m.

A prominent evangelical supporter of President Donald Trump's is standing by him after Trump used a vulgarity to describe African countries.

The Rev. Robert Jeffress of First Baptist Dallas says that, apart from the reported choice of words, "Trump is right on target in his policy."

Jeffress says Trump has a constitutional responsibility as commander in chief to protect the U.S. "above the needs of other countries." Jeffress says Trump has courage and deserved gratitude for his leadership.

Jeffress sent out the statement as many evangelical leaders condemned the remarks as offensive and racist.

People briefed on the Oval Office conversation on immigration reform Thursday said Trump questioned why the U.S. would accept more immigrants from Haiti and what he called 'shithole countries" in Africa.

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10 a.m.

A senator present at a White House immigration meeting says President Donald Trump used vulgar language to describe African countries, saying he "said these hate filled things and he said them repeatedly."

Sen. Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, on Friday told reporters that Trump questioned why the U.S. would accept more immigrants from Haiti and that he referenced "shithole countries" in Africa.

Durbin said "shitholes" was "the exact word used by the president not just once but repeatedly."

Durbin added, "When the question was asked about Haitians ... he said, 'Haitians? Do we need more Haitians?'"

Trump said on Twitter Friday that his language during the meeting was "tough," but "this was not the language used." He did not specifically deny using the word "shithole."

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9:15 a.m.

President Donald Trump is insisting he "never said anything derogatory about Haitians."

Trump is reacting on Twitter Friday, after reports that he questioned why the U.S. would accept more immigrants from Haiti and "shithole countries" in Africa rather than places like Norway. Some media outlets also reported that Trump said in reference to Haitians, "take them out."

Trump tweets: "Never said anything derogatory about Haitians other than Haiti is, obviously, a very poor and troubled country. Never said 'take them out.'"

The White House has not denied the language used at the Thursday meeting on immigration. Three people briefed on the conversation described the language. The people were not authorized to describe the conversation and spoke on condition of anonymity.

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7:45 a.m.

President Donald Trump says "this was not the language used" after reports that he referred to "shithole" African nations in a meeting.

Trump tweeted Friday amid criticism over his comments during a White House meeting Wednesday. The White House has not denied the language, nor have the several Republican lawmakers in the meeting.

Three people briefed on the conversation say Trump questioned why the U.S. would accept more immigrants from Haiti and "shithole countries" in Africa rather than places like Norway. The people were not authorized to describe the conversation and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Trump says Friday: "The language used by me at the DACA meeting was tough, but this was not the language used. What was really tough was the outlandish proposal made - a big setback for DACA!"

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7 a.m.

President Donald Trump says a bipartisan immigration proposal is "a big step backwards." He tweets that it would force the U.S. "to take large numbers of people from high crime countries which are doing badly."

Trump seems to be defending himself against the furor over his vulgar words to describe African countries. Trump questioned at a White House meeting Thursday why the U.S. would accept more immigrants from Haiti and Africa than from places like Norway.

Trump says the "so-called bipartisan" deal "was a big step backwards" because it doesn't fund a wall along the Mexican border.

He adds: "I want a merit based system of immigration and people who will help take our country to the next level. I want safety and security for our people. I want to stop the massive inflow of drugs."

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2 a.m.

President Donald Trump's dismissal of Haiti and certain African countries with a vulgar expression has created a furor.

Trump made the remark Thursday during a White House meeting after senators discussed revamping immigration rules. That's according to three people who were briefed on the conversation but weren't authorized to describe it publicly.

Trump questioned why the U.S. would accept more immigrants from Haiti and "shithole countries" in Africa rather than places like Norway, as he rejected a bipartisan immigration deal.

Trump's contemptuous description of an entire continent startled lawmakers in the meeting and immediately revived charges of racism. The White House did not deny his remark but issued a statement saying Trump supports immigration policies that welcome "those who can contribute to our society."

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