January 12, 2018

US President Donald Trump is reported to have made disparaging comments about people from Africa and Haiti – referring to African nations as “shithole” countries, and suggesting US immigration rules keep out Haitians. The White House did not deny that the President made these statements, but Trump has tweeted a tepid denial, which has been countered by a confirmation by Senator Dick Durbin (D, Ill.) and others that the US leader did, indeed, repeatedly use language that was “hate-filled, vile and racist” during a negotiation of DACA, the Obama-era rule that allows children of undocumented immigrants to remain in the country.

Trump has a history with the island nation. Last fall the Trump Administration decided to end a humanitarian program that allowed 59,000 Haitians to remain in the United States since an earthquake devastated the country in 2010, forcing them to leave by 2019 or face deportation. The President was later overheard saying Haitians “all have AIDS.”

The outcry to Trump’s most recent comments has been overwhelming. One of the most powerful statements came from CNN anchor Anderson Cooper, who covered the Haiti earthquake and took a bold step for a journalist by directly calling out the US president for his “racist sentiment.” Below is a transcript of Cooper’s comments, along with a link to his emotional commentary.

Anderson Cooper:

I just want to take a moment to talk about Haiti, one of the places the President of the United States referred to today as a “shithole” country. I was taught math in high school by a Haitian immigrant named Yves Volel, who worked hard to dedicate himself to teaching kids in America. He ultimately returned to his country in Haiti and was assassinated while running for president. I spent a lot of time in Haiti. I first went there in the early 1990s as a young reporter. In 2010 my team from CNN was the first international team of journalists on the ground after the earthquake struck. I spent more than a month there and have returned many times on assignment and on vacation. Like all countries, Haiti is a collection of people with rich and poor well-educated, good and bad. But I’ve never met a Haitian who isn’t strong. You have to be to survive in a place where the government has often abandoned the people, where opportunities are few, and where Mother Nature has punished the people far more than anyone should ever be punished. But let me be clear tonight. The people of Haiti have been through more. They’ve been through more. They’ve withstood war. They fought back against more injustice than our President ever has. Tomorrow marks exactly eight years since the earthquake struck Haiti. A seven point one magnitude earthquake killed anywhere between 220,000 and 300,000 people. The actual numbers will never be known – because they were buried in unmarked pits. One and a half million people were displaced. For days and weeks without help from their own government or police, the people of Haiti dug through rubble with their bare and bloodied hands to see and complete strangers, guarded only by the cries of the wounded and the dying. I was there with a young girl named Bee, who had been trapped in rubble for nearly a day, was rescued by people who had no heavy equipment. They just had their God-given strength and their determination and their courage. I was there (pause) with a five-year-old boy named Monley was rescued after being buried for more than seven days. Do you know what strength it takes to survive on rainwater, buried under concrete? A five-year-old boy, buried for seven days. Haitians slap your hand hard when they shake it. They look you in the eye. They don’t blink. They stand tall and they have dignity. It’s a dignity many in this White House could learn from. Its a dignity the president, with all his money and all his power, could learn from as well. On the anniversary of the earthquake – on this day when this president has said what he has said about Haitians – we hope the people of Haiti who are listening tonight in Port au Prince and Jacmel and Bainet, in Miami and elsewhere – we hope they know that our thoughts are with them, and that our love is with them as well.

© CNN on January 11, 2018.