US President Donald Trump on Sunday claimed he was "not a racist" after he reportedly described Haiti and African nation-states as "s***hole countries."
"I'm not a racist. I am the least racist person you have ever interviewed. That I can tell you," Trump told reporters before attending a dinner with Republican House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy at the Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach, Florida.
Read more: What's behind Trump's big ego?
Trump's reported remark during an immigration meeting with US lawmakers last week prompted criticism from both sides of the congressional aisle, with some Democrats and Republicans denouncing it as racism.
More than 50 African ambassadors to the UN criticized the reported remarks on Saturday, calling for the US president to issue a "retraction and an apology."
Trump has offered only a vague defense of the remark. "The language used by me at the DACA meeting was tough, but this was not the language used," Trump said in a tweet on Friday, apparently referencing the reported remark.
At least one Republican senator has claimed that the story of Trump's controversial remark was a "gross misrepresentation."
Looming government shutdown
Ahead of the dinner with McCarthy, Trump said he did not have any assurances as to whether Congress would avert a government shutdown.
US lawmakers have until Friday to agree on government funding, with temporary measures set to expire. Some Democrats have threatened to vote against legislation to extend funding unless protections for the hundreds of thousands of immigrants who were brought to the US illegally as children are included.
Trump announced last year that he will end the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, if a solution is not found by March.
Read more: Is a US government shutdown looming after Donald Trump's DACA meddling?
Democratic lawmakers "don't want security at the border," said Trump, referring to a campaign promise to build a wall on the border with Mexico and restrict immigration to the country. Trump has been unable to fulfill many of his campaign promises regarding the border since assuming office nearly a year ago.
"You got people pouring in. They don't want to stop drugs, and they want to take money away from our military, which we cannot do," Trump said, referring to the Democrats seeking a deal on DACA.
ls/cmk (Reuters, AP, AFP)