Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.).
© Michael Vadon / Wikimedia Commons
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.)
Two GOP senators said Friday they "do not recall" President Trump's reference to "shithole countries" during an Oval Office meeting on immigration.

Sens. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and David Perdue (R-Ga.) issued a joint statement saying they did not recall the president making the exact comments and called out Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) for confirming the comments.

"In regards to Senator Durbin's accusation, we do not recall the President saying these comments specifically but what he did call out was the imbalance in our current immigration system, which does not protect American workers and our national interest," the senators wrote.

Trump, in a Thursday meeting that also included Durbin, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) - whom Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) said confirmed the remarks to him - and Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), reportedly referred to immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and certain African nations as coming from "shithole countries."

"Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?" Trump said, according to The Washington Post.

Durbin on Friday called the president's comments "vile and racist," adding that he "cannot believe in this history of the White House, in that Oval Office, any president has ever spoken the words that I personally heard our president speak yesterday."

Durbin was the only Democrat at the closed immigration meeting in the White House on Thursday, where lawmakers suggested allowing immigrants from countries such as Haiti, El Salvador and other African countries to regain their protection from deportation in the U.S.

"President Trump brought everyone to the table this week and listened to both sides," the Republicans wrote, referring to Trump's bipartisan meetings on immigration reform. "But regrettably, it seems that not everyone is committed to negotiating in good faith."

Trump said Friday on Twitter that he used "tough" language on immigration but "never said anything derogatory about Haitians."