White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders defended President Donald Trump against accusations that he is a racist citing his decade-long stint on television as evidence to the contrary. Trump ignited furore last week after his reported comment during an immigration meeting with bipartisan lawmakers that Haiti, El Salvador and African nations were "shithole countries".
He also reportedly questioned why more immigrants were not coming from countries like Norway.
Trump's comments immediately drew a fierce backlash from lawmakers within the US and world leaders, labelling his statement racist. Critics argued that the president's latest controversial remark solidified evidence that Trump is a racist.
Trump has since pushed back against the report and subsequent accusations saying: "I am not a racist." He conceded that he did use "tough language" during the closed-door DACA meeting, but "this was not the language used".
In an attempt to defend Trump on Tuesday (16 January), Sanders said claims that the president is a "racist" are "outrageous."
"I think that is an outrageous claim," Sanders told reporters, adding that if he is a racist "why did NBC give him a show for a decade on TV?"
Sanders was referring to Trump's reality TV show The Apprentice that premiered in 2004 and launched a franchise.
"Why did Chuck Schumer and all of his colleagues come and beg Donald Trump for money?" Sanders continued. "If they are who they want to try and portray him as, why do they want to be with him for years and years in various activities, whether it was as events and fundraisers and other things? I think it's just an outrageous and ludicrous excuse."
The press secretary's comments came in response to a question about Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer who said on "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert" that the president could disprove the accusations of racism by approving the DACA proposal worked out by the bipartisan committee.
"Look, his comments over and over and over again can be described as nothing but racist and obnoxious," Schumer said. "So I have a challenge for Donald Trump, okay?Actions speak louder than words. You want to begin, just begin, that long road back to proving you're not a racist, you're not bigoted?
"Support the bipartisan compromise that three Republicans and three Democrats have put on the floor — everyone gave — and get the DREAMers safety here in America... If this bill doesn't become law, there will only be one thing standing in the way, and that's Donald Trump and his intransigence."
Meanwhile, Sanders said lawmakers need to "get on board" and "start actually doing what they were elected to do". She added that Trump is "not going to apologise for trying to fix our immigration system", noting that he "hasn't said he didn't use strong language during the meeting".
Twitter, on the other hand, blasted Sanders over her "ridiculous" defence of Trump on racism deeming it "one of the most stupid arguments of all time".
"That's about the weakest damn argument for Trump you could make," one Twitter user wrote. "People look the other way all the time, frequently b/c there's money involved."
"Once again, equating a TV show to the presidency? How ignorant does one have to be to expound that garbage on a daily basis," someone wrote.