(CNSNews.com) - Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen told “Fox News Sunday” that she doesn’t recall President Donald Trump calling Haiti a “s---hole” country, and disputing the claims that the president is a racist.
Nielsen, who attended last Thursday’s bipartisan meeting on immigration reform at the White House, said, “I don't recall him saying that exact phrase. I think he has been clear and I would certainly say undoubtedly the president will use, continue to use strong language when it comes to this issue. He feels very passionate about it.”
“I think what was frustrating about that meeting for all of us in the meeting was that although the deal presented in theory and approach to the four pillars upon which we had agreed, did not address the core security issues that we need to do our job,” she said.
“And more importantly, there's nothing in there that would prevent us from getting here again. So, we’re not interested in half measures. We don't want additional temporary populations here. It's unfair to them, it's unfair to American citizens and it certainly raises security risks,” she added.
“I don’t understand -- I’m just going to press back on you once on this subject. It seems to me -- you were in the meeting when these comments were made. I can understand you either saying they were said or they were not said. It is pretty shocking language, and to say I don't recall seems implausible,” Fox News host Chris Wallace said.
“If the president of the United States used the word blank-hole talking about countries in the Oval Office or didn't say it, I would know,” he said.
“I understand the question. It was an impassioned conversation. I don't recall that specific phrase being used. That's all I can say about that,” Nielsen said.
Nielsen defended the president’s call for switching to a merit-based immigration system instead of the diversity lottery system and chain migration.
“Isn't that the definition of racism, to say we don't want people from these black countries, but we do want people from a very white country?” asked Wallace.
“I think what the president is saying is he’d like to move to merit-based, which is based on an individual. So, whether individuals can come here and can contribute to our society, help our economy, assimilating communities, and help America be better,” Nielsen said.
“I take a little bit of offense to the comments and suggestions that the president is racist. What he's looking at is the exact merit-based system we have in Australia and Canada. I’m sure that we are not, any of us, suggesting that Canada and Australia and their leaders are racists,” she said.
“But the president seems in these comments to be equating merit to the countries that people come from. He seems to be suggesting you’d rather have a janitor from Norway than a doctor from Haiti,” Wallace said.
Nielsen said she disagreed with that interpretation of the president’s comments.
“Why would merit have to do with the country? Why would it have to do with your qualifications?” Wallace asked.
“I think it does. I think what he's trying to do is move away from a quota based system, whether that's a quota of underrepresented countries or a quota of Norway, for example. I think what he's trying to say is we need to look at the individual and ensure that we look at those who can bring merit to our country,” Nielsen responded.