US President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump return to the White House following a weekend trip to his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.
US President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump return to the White House following a weekend trip to his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. KEVIN DIETSCH / POOL

King's son dismissive of Trump

MARTIN Luther King Jr's eldest son has blasted Donald Trump's reported description of Haiti, El Salvador and certain African nations as "s---hole countries”.

In the days leading up to the US holiday celebrating Dr King on Monday, Mr Trump faced international condemnation for his alleged comments.

"These are evil days when the President of the United States doesn't seem to understand that Africa is a continent, not a state, and he refers to countries such as Nigeria and Haiti and El Salvador as, y'all know that word. I don't talk like that. Y'all know what he said,” Martin Luther King III said at a breakfast honouring his late father.

Mr Trump stands accused of using "s---hole” to describe various nations during an immigration meeting with a bipartisan group of six senators.

The President also questioned the need to admit more Haitians to the US, according to a number of accounts of the meeting.

"Why are we having all these people from s---hole countries come here?” he said, according to the Washington Post, as part of the discussions over a bipartisan immigration deal.

He added that the US should admit more people from places like Norway.

Martin Luther King III was quick to admonish this claim on Monday: "When a president insists that our nation needs more citizens from white states like Norway, I don't even think we need to spend any time even talking about what it says and what it is.”

Dr King's daughter, Bernice King, also criticised Mr Trump. "We cannot allow the nations of the world to embrace the words that come from our president as a reflection of the true spirit of America,” she said while speaking at a service in Atlanta.

"We are one people, one nation, one blood, one destiny. All of civilization and humanity originated from the soils of Africa," Ms King added. "Our collective voice in this hour must always be louder than the one who sometimes does not reflect the legacy of my father.”

Having repeatedly denied the remarks attributed to him, Mr Trump's weekly address honoured Dr King, who is perhaps best known for his 1963 I Have a Dream speech calling for civil and economic rights.

Late Monday morning, about two hours after he arrived at his golf club in Florida, Mr Trump retweeted the White House post containing his address about Dr King.

"Dr King's dream is our dream,” Mr Trump said in the message. "It is the American Dream. It's the promise stitched into the fabric of our nation, etched into the hearts of our people and written into the soul of humankind.”

The day before, Mr Trump told journalists he was "not a racist” and asserted that he was "the least racist person” they have ever interviewed.

The President has also used Twitter to dispute reports he used the word "s---hole”, but Democratic Senator Dick Durbin, who attended the White House meeting, asserts that Mr Trump "repeatedly” said "these hate-filled things”.

On Monday, Mr Durbin doubled down on his statements, telling reporters that he stands by every word he said.

Soon after, Mr Trump tweeted that "Dicky Durbin” had "totally misrepresented” what was said at the White House meeting.

However, the President's position has not stopped the criticism towards a president who has previously faced condemnation over his statements relating to a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville last year.

In an opinion piece marking Martin Luther King Jr Day, Reverend Al Sharpton accused Mr Trump's administration of "undoing the progress” of the civil rights movement and emboldening racist ideologies.

"A half century ago King led a movement - a movement that was predicated upon securing voting rights, job opportunities, fair housing, educational opportunities, an end to racial discrimination and ending income inequality,” Mr Sharpton said in an article published by NBC News.

"Today, in 2018, we find ourselves at a crossroads: Everything King fought so tirelessly for is under attack once again.”

Likely Republican Senate candidate Mitt Romney also took a swipe at Mr Trump, saying that the sentiment attributed to the President is "inconsistent w/ America's history and antithetical to American values”.

"May our memory of Dr King buoy our hope for unity, greatness, & 'charity for all',” the 2012 Republican presidential nominee tweeted.

As part of a diplomatic protest of Mr Trump's "disturbing” comments, South Africa's government called for a meeting on Monday with acting US Ambassador Jessye Lapenn in Pretoria, the Department of International Relations said in a statement on Sunday.

While officials acknowledged that Mr Trump has denied using a vulgar slur, they said the President's denial was "categorical, referring only to Haiti and not addressing the entirety of the statement attributed to him”.

- Alexandra Wilts, The Independent

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