WASHINGTON, U.S. - Despite repeated denials from both himself and his administration, the U.S. President Donald Trump repeated his claim that he is not a racist.
The American President was involved in his most recent controversy, involving alleged comments made by him over immigration - a long-drawn debate that has been boiling in the background of his one year in power.
Late last week, reports quoted Trump as saying during a bipartisan Oval Office meeting on immigration reform that the country should stop accepting immigrants from “shithole” countries, apparently referring to African nations.
The incident reportedly took place on Thursday, after lawmakers from both parties visited the president to work on a proposal for a bipartisan immigration deal.
The Trump administration has recently been withdrawing Temporary Protected Status (TPS) from a number of nationalities currently living in the country.
Reports last week stated that Trump had asked during the meeting, "Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?"
According to the reports, Trump told lawmakers that instead of granting temporary residency to citizens of countries hit by natural disasters, war or epidemics, the U.S. should be taking in migrants from countries like Norway.
On Friday morning after the reports emerged, the president tweeted that the language he used in the meeting was "tough" but disputed the wording of the reports.
In another tweet, he denyed he had insulted Haitians, accusing Democrats of making it up.
However, Senator Dick Durbin, who was present in the meeting, stood by claims, and said that Trump had used "hate-filled, vile and racist" language during the meeting.
Senior Republican lawmakers who were also present in the meeting have however, said they do not recall Trump making the remark.
Lindsey Graham meanwhile, who was present there 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.”
But as international media picked up the story, what followed next was a barrage of criticism from various nations, with leaders of African nations being specifically irked.
The African Union demanded that Trump apologise, and even expressed their "shock, dismay and outrage" at the "clearly racist" remarks.
Even the UN human rights spokesman, Rupert Colville said during a Geneva news briefing, "There is no other word one can use but racist. You cannot dismiss entire countries and continents as 'shitholes'."
On Sunday, Trump yet again denied that he is a racist, after the row escalated over Trump’s alleged use of the crude language.
Trump told reporters, "I am not a racist. I'm the least racist person you have ever interviewed."
Despite statements from the White House and the Trump administration, this was the first time the president has responded directly to the racism accusations.
Trump was addressing White House press pool reporters at the Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach in Florida on Sunday night.
Meanwhile, the South African government said that on Monday, it would issue a diplomatic protest to the United States over Trump's comments.
South Africa's Department of International Relations announced in a statement, that it would formally protest to the U.S. Embassy in Pretoria.
It said, "The Department will provide an opportunity to the Charges de Affaires to explain the statement that African countries, alongside Haiti and El Salvador, constitute 'shitholes' from where migrants into the United States are undesirable.”
The statement added that the government noted Trump's denial that this exact language was used but said it "has noted further that President Trump's denial was not categorical, referring only to Haiti and not addressing the entirety of the statement attributed to him."
It said, “South Africa aligns itself with the statements issued by the African Union and the Africa group of Ambassadors to the United Nations in New York. Africa is united in its affirmation of the dignity of the people of Africa and the African diaspora. Relations between South Africa and the United States, and between the rest of Africa and the United States, must be based on mutual respect and understanding.”