In the battle of credibility between President Donald Trump and Senate Minority Whip Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) over whether the chief executive referred to certain third-world countries as “s***holes,” most of the media have sided with the Democrat.
But a pair of Republican senators who were at the White House meeting Thursday, Georgia’s David Perdue and Arkansas’ Tom Cotton, said Friday they do not recall Trump making the remark.
Former Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), said on “The Ingraham Angle” Friday night that Durbin’s account should be viewed with great skepticism.
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“It’s the only thing they have,” said Chaffetz, now a Fox News analyst. “Look, there were six members of Congress in that room. There was only one Democrat. And only the Democrat is saying that this happened. And I think it’s highly suspect when Dick Durbin, who has a history of doing this — I mean, he’s used this card on Republicans before and was absolutely wrong.”
Fox News host Laura Ingraham referenced past questionable statements by Durbin.
In October 2013, Durbin wrote in a Facebook post that a House Republican leader treated then-President Barack Obama disrespectfully.
“In a ‘negotiation’ meeting with the president, one GOP House leader told the president: ‘I cannot even stand to look at you,'” Durbin wrote at the time.
The problem, according to no less a source than Obama’s White House spokesman, was that it was untrue.
“I looked into this and spoke with somebody who was in that meeting, and it did not happen,” then-press secretary Jay Carney told reporters at the daily briefing.
Carney reiterated the point when asked a second time: “My understanding is that, again, from a participant in the meeting, that that didn’t happen.”
For his part, Trump denied disparaging Haiti during the meeting with lawmakers to negotiate a deal to grant legal status to people enrolled in the soon-to-expire Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
“Never said anything derogatory about Haitians other than Haiti is, obviously, a very poor and troubled country,” Trump tweeted Friday. “Never said ‘take them out.’ Made up by Dems. I have a wonderful relationship with Haitians. Probably should record future meetings — unfortunately, no trust!”
Ingraham also highlighted a 2005 speech on the Senate floor in which Durbin compared U.S. soldiers to Nazis and goons of Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot.
Democratic strategist Robin Biro told Ingraham that, as a military veteran, he also took offense to Durbin’s comments about the military. But he tried to turn the conversation back to the current president.
“Politicians say the darndest things, and Donald Trump is now a politician, and he is one of those people saying the most absurd things,” he said.
But to Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), it is Cotton and Perdue who are not telling the truth.
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“It tells me Sens. Cotton and Perdue are lying,” Lieu told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. “If the president of the United States said the word ‘s***hole’ 24 hours ago, you would know that. Either the president said it or he didn’t. You don’t say you don’t recall. And that tells me the president actually did say that.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who joined Durbin in presenting the DACA proposal that Trump rejected, issued a statement that did not directly confirm Durbin’s allegation but suggested the president said something offensive.
“Following comments by the president, I said my piece directly to him yesterday,” he stated. “The president and all those attending the meeting know what I said and how I feel. I’ve always believed that America is an idea, not defined by its people but by its ideals.”