Democratic Senator Dick Durbin appeared on ABC’s “The View” Wednesday to defend his account that President Trump called African nations “s—hole countries” at a White House meeting last week on immigration.
“I stand by my words,” Durbin, a Democrat from Illinois, told the co-hosts. He said the language Trump used was “explicit” and reflects the president’s view that “we would favor some countries like Norway and the Europeans at the expense of Africans and people from Haiti.”
“It was clear to me what the president was saying,” he added.
The controversy over Trump’s language continued after Durbin and other senators questioned Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen–who was also at the meeting–as she testified Tuesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Nielsen, under oath, said she “did not hear” the word “s—hole,” during an exchange with Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.
Answering a question from Durbin, Nielsen replied, “I don’t specifically remember a category — categorization of countries in Africa. There was a lot of rough talk by a lot of people in the room.”
Durbin, responded he didn’t “know how you could miss those words spoken by the president.”
“A lot of my colleagues who were in that room, two senators and now the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, can’t remember what the president said. I can’t forget what the president said,” Durbin added.
Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, another senator in the White House meeting– who now claims Trump never said the words in question– said Nielsen backed his version.
“I saw what Sen. Durbin said– that he stood by every word that he said. So let me be clear. I stand by every word that I said,” Cotton said Tuesday. “The difference is, I’m right. As far as I know there’s only one person who’s spoken about this meeting under oath and she confirmed my account.”
Cotton initially said, in a statement shortly after the meeting, that he “did not recall” Trump making any offensive comments.
On “The View,” Durbin refused to label his colleagues as “liars” when asked by co-host Joy Behar about the different accounts.
Guest co-host Alicia Menendez pressed Durbin on why he didn’t scold the president in the moment.
Durbin responded by saying he deferred to his Republican colleague, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, to say the president “was wrong.” Durbin said Graham used the president’s own explicit words to criticize Trump.
Graham has not disputed Durbin’s account.
Co-host Meghan McCain asked Durbin if publicly disclosing what Trump said hurt any progress being made on a deal on the fate of nearly 800,000 Dreamers–immigrants brought into the U.S. as children.
“You’re going to see before the end of the day more Republicans stepping forward and saying they don’t agree with President Trump’s views on immigration,” he replied. “I don’t believe those views represent America.”
ABC News’ Ali Rogin contributed to this report.