Top Iowa Republicans distanced themselves from vulgar comments that President Donald Trump reportedly made Thursday, criticizing Haiti and African nations.
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, along with Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst said Friday they didn't have firsthand knowledge, but added what was reported was not acceptable.
"I don't think it's acceptable. That's not who we are as Iowans," Reynolds said in an interview in Davenport, where she made a stop promoting her Condition of the State address.
At a meeting on immigration with Republican and Democratic lawmakers at the White House on Thursday, the president questioned why the United States should take in more immigrants from Haiti and "s---hole countries" in Africa, according to news reports.
Trump said, instead, the U.S. ought to seek immigrants from Norway, according to the reports, which cited people who were in the room.
The White House did not deny the comments on Thursday, but on Friday morning the president pushed back against the accuracy of the reports. In one tweet, he said he "never said anything derogatory about Haitians other than Haiti is, obviously, a very poor and troubled country."
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., one of the meeting participants said Friday that Trump made the comments attributed to him.
In Council Bluffs, at a stop at Rasmussen Mechanical Services, Grassley was asked about the comment during a question and answer session with employees — and about Trump's denial.
"Well I wasn't there, so I know what you folks and journalists have said about it and TV has said about it. But I think I better just say that those aren't words that I would use and I think that you ought to consider all of humanity (as) humanity and treat them accordingly," Grassley said, according to a recording provided by his office.
He added the comments distract from coming to an agreement on a range of immigration-related issues.
Leigh Claffey, a spokesperson for Ernst, said in an email, "Senator Ernst was not in the room and cannot confirm what was said, however she would not agree. Senator Ernst has made clear that America has been, and always will be, a nation of immigrants."