Maryland lawmakers, Mayor Pugh, Gov. Hogan condemn Trump's comments on immigrants

Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh and Gov. Larry Hogan were both quick to condemn President Donald Trump’s recent comments in the Oval Office, in which he reportedly said immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and African nations come “from shithole countries” and questioned why they should be welcomed in by the United States.

"Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?" Trump said, after lawmakers discussed restoring protections for immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and African countries as part of a bipartisan immigration deal.

Trump’s statements, first reported by The Washington Post, have drawn widespread outrage. Trump has since denied using the word.

Pugh, a Democrat, called upon all elected leaders, regardless of party, to condemn the president’s comments.

"Like all Americans who embrace decency and the values of diversity and inclusion, and who celebrate what made America great in the first place, I’m appalled by these latest comments of President Donald Trump regarding Haitians and people of African nations,” Pugh said in a statement. “They reinforce abhorrent racist attitudes, and evidence of the lack of knowledge, understanding, and empathy we expect of the person who occupies the highest office in the land.”

Republican Gov. Larry Hogan said Fridy, “The president’s remarks are beyond unacceptable, beneath the office, and unrepresentative of the Aerican people.”

Rep.Andy Harris, the sole Republican in Maryland’s congressional contingent, offered a statement Friday in response to Trump’s comments.

“I wasn’t in the room, and I don’t know what was or wasn’t said, but I would hope that any president would minimize his or her use of profanity. But even if the president did use profanity, he would be joining Presidents Obama, Clinton, Reagan, Carter, Ford, Nixon, Johnson, and Truman — all of whom used profanity occasionally — some of whom even used it to describe their political opponents.”

Maryland lawmakers were quick to denounce the president’s comments on Twitter. Sen. Chris Van Hollen said he was “disgusted,” while Sen. Ben Cardin said Trump’s “comments do not represent America’s values.”

“I condemn this unforgivable statement and this demeaning of the office of the Presidency,” Baltimore Rep. Elijah E. Cummings said in a tweet. “I will always fight for the vulnerable among us and against bigotry in all its forms.”

Some of Maryland's Democratic state senators condemned President Donald Trump's comments about immigrants on Friday, while one of their Republican colleagues said their comments were out of place.

Sen. Cheryl Kagan, who addressed Trump's comments on the Senate floor in Annapolis, said nearly a third of Montgomery County's 1.1 million people come from other countries. The Montgomery County Democrat asked her colleagues to “please join me in condemning the language, the disrespect, the hatred and yes, the racism that we continue to see coming out of this administration.”

“Denouncing whole countries or an entire continent is so remarkably ignorant and despicable,” Kagan said. “The Statue of Liberty says give me your poor, your tired, your huddled masses. It doesn't say, depending on what language they speak or depending on the country that they come from.”

State Sen. Delores Kelley, a Democrat whose daughter-in-law was born in Haiti, also rose to address the president's comments.

“It touched me really personally and I had to have a conversation last night trying to explain to my three granddaughters that their mother is a worthwhile human being,” Kelley said.

Sen. Robert Cassilly, a Harford County Republican, objected to hearing these comments in the chamber, saying they were “not appropriate matter for the Senate of Maryland.”

He said he refrained from criticizing former President Barack Obama “when the last commander in chief, I felt, took actions that directly resulted in the death of police officers.”

“I realize that some people don't want this president in the White House,” Cassilly said. “I realize some people find him offensive every day, but at some point we've got to move beyond that and address the issues that are very serious to the state of Maryland.”

A White House spokesman defended Trump's position on immigration without directly addressing Trump's remarks. White House officials did not dispute the account.

"Certain Washington politicians choose to fight for foreign countries, but President Trump will always fight for the American people," spokesman Raj Shah said in a statement. " . . . Like other nations that have merit-based immigration, President Trump is fighting for permanent solutions that make our country stronger by welcoming those who can contribute to our society, grow our economy and assimilate into our great nation."

Speaking at an event in Prince George's County on Friday, Democratic Van Hollen told the audience that the comments "undermine the idea behind our country, which is that we all have value and that this is a country from where people from all over the world come together."

In a television interview, former Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele, who served under Gov. Robert Ehrlich, and later served as the Republican Party chairman, said he believes the president is racist.

Rep. Anthony G. Brown, a Prince George's County Democrat, described the remark as "vulgar"and "racist."

"Whether you think President Trump is racist or not, the remark that he made yesterday directed toward Africans was one in a series of racist remarks that he's said," Brown said. "I think it bespeaks of racial animus and prejudice."

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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