Trump tweeted a denial, saying he used tough language at the immigration reform meeting, but not 'sh**hole.'
Washington/Namibia: US President Donald Trump tweeted a denial Friday after he was quoted as describing African and other states as "shithole countries," amid an international furor over the remarks.
Trump, who reportedly made the comment during a meeting with legislators Thursday on immigration reform, drew charges of racism.
"Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?" Trump said, people briefed on the meeting told The Washington Post.
The New York Times later reported the same comment, citing unnamed people with direct knowledge of the meeting.
"The language used by me at the DACA meeting was tough, but this was not the language used," Trump tweeted early 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!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 12, 2018
The reference was to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which shields from deportation nearly 800,000 immigrants brought to the country illegally as children.
Thursday's meeting was to discuss a compromise under which DACA would be preserved but a visa lottery and a policy allowing legal immigrants to bring family members into the country would be ended.
"I want a merit based system of immigration and people who will help take our country to the next level," Trump said in another tweet.
....countries which are doing badly. 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. I want to fund our military, not do a Dem defund....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 12, 2018
"I want safety and security for our people," he added, criticizing the proposed bipartisan deal.
"USA would be forced to take large numbers of people from high crime countries which are doing badly," Trump tweeted.
The Post and the Times said Trump's vulgar remark Thursday was in reference to African countries and Haiti. The Post included El Salvador on its list.
Trump suggested the United States should instead welcome immigrants from places like Norway, whose prime minister met with Trump on Wednesday.
United Nations rights office spokesman Rupert Colville said "there is no other word one can use but 'racist'" to describe Trump's remarks.
"You cannot dismiss entire countries and continents as 'shitholes' whose entire populations, who are not white, are therefore not welcome," Colville told reporters in Geneva.
Democratic congressman Luis Gutierrez called Trump "a racist who does not share the values enshrined in our Constitution."
Africans reacted angrily Friday after Donald Trump reportedly referred to their nations as "shithole countries", with many lashing the US president for racism and ignorance.
The 55-nation African Union condemned the remarks while the southern African state of Botswana hauled in the US ambassador to complain.
The comment "truly flies in the face of accepted behaviour and practice," said Ebba Kalondo, spokeswoman for AU chief Moussa Faki.
"This is even more hurtful given the historical reality of just how many Africans arrived in the United States as slaves, and also terribly surprising as the United States remains a massively positive example as just how migration can give birth to a nation," Kalondo said.
The comments were "clearly" racist, Kalondo said, but stressed the US was "much stronger than the sum total of one man."
Botswana summoned the US ambassador to the country to "clarify if Botswana is regarded as a 'shithole' country", according to a foreign ministry statement which called Trump's comments "irresponsible, reprehensible and racist".
This is not the first time Trump has rubbed Africans up the wrong way -- he was widely derided last year after he twice referred to Namibia as "Nambia".
On social media, users across the continent on Friday posted images of modern skylines and beautiful nature from their countries with the ironic hashtag "shithole."
Many Africans reminded the US of its historic role in the continent's woes.
"President Trump, One day, I'll take you to a 'shithole' country called Ghana," wrote Ghanaian Edmond Prime Sarpong on Facebook.
"First stop would be Osu Castle, Elmina Castle, and the over 40 Forts that detained about 30 million slaves, beaten and shipped out like sardine cans and then I will tell you the history of Africa and why people like you made that a 'shithole' continent."
Prominent Kenyan commentator Patrick Gathara, said that Trump's words were nothing new from a "racist and ignorant" administration, nor from the West at large.
"This is no different from what Hollywood and Western media have been saying about Africa for decades. We have consistently been portrayed as shitty people from shitty countries," he said.
Some acknowledged problems in their countries, but blamed this on their poor leaders as well as western nations such as the US.
"Please don't confuse the #shithole leaders we Africans elect with our beautiful continent... Our motherland is the most blessed continent that has been raped by imperialists in collaboration with our shitty misleaders for generations," wrote Kenyan activist Boniface Mwangi on Twitter.
Please don’t confuse the #shithole leaders we Africans elect with our beautiful continent. Our leaders are shit like dotard Trump. Our motherland is the most blessed continent that has been raped by imperialists in collaboration with our shitty misleaders for generations. pic.twitter.com/hJVYYo0VlC— Boniface Mwangi (@bonifacemwangi) January 12, 2018
In South Africa, the ruling party declared "ours is not a shithole country" and described Trump as "extremely offensive".
"It is not as if the United States doesn't have difficulties. There are millions of unemployed people in the US, millions of people who don't have health care services or access to education and we would not deign to make comments as derogatory as that," said Jessie Duarte, the deputy secretary general of the African National Congress (ANC).
Nigerians however did not hold back, with many on Twitter saying their country was a "shithole", but that it was "our shithole" to criticise.
Even war-torn South Sudan weighed in, with President Salva Kiir's spokesman Ateny Wek Ateny slamming the comments as "outrageous".
However Juba businesswoman Jenny Jore, 31,said that Trump's remarks were "on point". "It is thanks to our African leaders that we are insulted that way," she said.
Trump's latest comments also provided ample fodder for talkshow hosts.
South African comedian Trevor Noah, star of "The Daily Show", described himself as an offended citizen of "South Shithole" and also called Trump out for racism, especially for saying he preferred immigrants from Norway.
"He didn't just name a white country, he named the whitest -- so white they wear moon-screen," he said.