The irony of President Donald Trump signing a proclamation declaring Martin Luther King Jr. Day, hours after denying he had used the term “shithole” to refer to Haiti and countries in Africa, wasn’t lost on those in the room with him.
In an opening speech, the president called King “a great American hero” who would go on to change the course of human history. He also noted King’s courage to stand up for the “self-evident truth Americans hold so dear” that all people are “created equal by God.”
After statements from Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson and King’s nephew, Pastor Isaac Newton Farris, Trump gleefully signed the proclamation, handing the black marker to Farris as a keepsake, as is presidential tradition.
The president then tried to book it out of the Roosevelt Room, stopping only for a few handshakes from attendees. But no speed was speedy enough to get past reporters’ unanswered questions concerning the statements Trump reportedly made to a group of senators on Thursday regarding immigration policy for black and Latino countries:
“Mr. President, will you give an apology for the statements yesterday?”
“Mr. President, did you use the word ‘shithole’ to refer to African nations?”
“Are you a racist?”
“Mr. President, will you respond to these serious questions about this statement, sir?”
“Mr. President, are you a racist?”
The journalist’s last question rang out over the room as Trump closed the door behind him, and a clipped “Thanks, press” presumably from a White House staff member didn’t resonate as particularly thankful at all.