Following a row broke out over the president’s alleged use of the word “s**thole” to describe African nations, Donald Trump has denied that he is racist.
President Trump reportedly used the term last week during a bipartisan Oval Office meeting on immigration reform.
“I am not a racist. I’m the least racist person you have ever interviewed,” he told reporters.
It is the first time President Trump has responded directly to the racism accusations.
Donald Trump made the denial to White House press pool reporters at the Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach in Florida on January 14.
The scandal broke out on January 11, when lawmakers from both parties visited the president to work on a proposal for a bipartisan immigration deal.
In recent weeks the Trump administration has been withdrawing Temporary Protected Status (TPS) from a number of nationalities currently living in the US.
Reports later emerged in media that President Trump had asked during the meeting: “Why are we having all these people from s**thole countries come here?”
The president was said to have told them that instead of granting temporary residency to citizens of countries hit by natural disasters, war or epidemics, the US should be taking in immigrants from countries like Norway.
Accounts suggest that when President Trump was told that the largest groups of immigrants with the status were from El Salvador, Honduras and Haiti, the president responded: “Haitians? Do we need more Haitians?”
Donald Trump tweeted on January 12 that the language he used in the meeting was “tough” but disputed the wording of the reports.
The president also posted another tweet denying he had insulted Haitians, accusing Democrats of making it up.
However, Democratic Senator Dick Durbin stood by claims, and said that President Trump had used “hate-filled, vile and racist” language during the meeting.
Several senior Republican lawmakers at the meeting, including Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, have said they do not recall President Trump making the remark.
However, another Republican senator who was there, Lindsey Graham, did not deny the comments were made.
He said: “Following comments by the president, I said my piece directly to him yesterday. The president and all those attending the meeting know what I said and how I feel.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan said that President Donald Trump’s immigration comments were “very unfortunate” and “unhelpful”.
On January 14, when he was asked whether he thought the comments had made it harder to achieve any immigration deal, President Trump responded: “Have you seen what various senators said about my comments? They weren’t made.”
On January 12, the African Union demanded that the president apologize expressing their “shock, dismay and outrage” at the “clearly racist” remarks.
Meanwhile, the UN human rights spokesman, Rupert Colville, told a Geneva news briefing: “There is no other word one can use but racist. You cannot dismiss entire countries and continents as <<s**tholes>>.”
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) accused President Trump of falling “deeper and deeper into the rabbit hole of racism and xenophobia”.
Several Democratic representatives have said they intend to skip Donald Trump’s State of the Union address later this month over the comments, accusing the president of racism.