Gov. Rick Scott on Thursday blasted President Donald Trump for reportedly disparaging Haiti, El Salvador and Africa during a bipartisan White House meeting about immigration reform.
According to several news outlets, including The Washington Post, The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, Trump reportedly questioned why the United States should accept immigrants from "s—hole countries" like Haiti, El Salvador and countries in Africa.
The president's comments immediately sparked outrage, especially from critics in Florida, which is home to more Haiti-born residents than any other state.
"If this report is true, it is absolutely wrong to say or think this. I do not think this way, nor do I agree with this kind of sentiment. I represent Florida, and we are an amazing melting pot where over 250 languages are spoken," Scott said in a statement.
The governor, a close ally of Trump, frequently visits the president and lunched with him less than two weeks ago at Trump's Mar-A-Lago estate in Palm Beach.
Florida state Sen. Daphne Campbell, a Haiti-born Democrat who lives in Miami-Dade County, quickly jumped on Trump's remarks Thursday evening, issuing a press release calling on Scott to denounce the "racist comments."
"The president's ongoing war against immigrants appears to be solely directed toward those immigrants of color," Campbell said. "I am appalled and disgusted that the man who stands as the symbol of a nation once offering refuge and sanctuary to all immigrants is doing his best to say: 'non-whites need not apply.' Governor Scott needs to denounce these remarks immediately on behalf of the people of Florida."
Trump's remarks are certain to further inflame Haitians already angered by his decision to rescind Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, for refugees from the island. The policy change could affect nearly 60,000 Haitians who fled to the U.S. following a devastating earthquake in 2010.
Scott's office issued the statement from the governor, a Republican who is widely expected to run this year against Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, when asked for a response to Campbell's demand.
"I work every day to make this the most welcoming state for everyone — Haitians, Cubans, Venezuelans, and others from all around the world that call Florida home. I'm incredibly proud of our diversity," Scott said in the statement.