Mon | Nov 12, 2018

Trump marks King day out of view, buffeted by race claims

Published:Tuesday | January 16, 2018 | 12:00 AM


President Donald Trump marked his first Martin Luther King Jr national holiday yesterday largely out of public view, buffeted by accusations that he used a racially tinged word to describe African countries and scoffed at the suggestion of admitting more Haitians to the US.

Trump decamped to his Florida estate for the long weekend, spending hours each day at his Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach.

On Friday, before he departed the White House, Trump encouraged the public "to observe this day with acts of civic work and community service in honour of Dr King's extraordinary life ... and his great legacy" as he signed a proclamation recognising Monday as the national holiday honouring the slain civil-rights leader. King's family also urged the public to perform civic work and acts of kindness.

Trump dedicated his weekly address to the nation, released yesterday, to King.

"Dr King's dream is our dream, it is the American dream, it's the promise stitched into the fabric of our nation, etched into the hearts of our people, and written into the soul of humankind," Trump said in the address, which he also tweeted out to his followers.

"It is the dream of a world where people are judged by who they are, not how they look or where they come from," the president said.

Trump's tribute followed the firestorm that ensued last week after he was accused of using the word "s*** hole" to describe African countries, and seeming to baulk at admitting more Haitians to the US, he voiced a desire for more immigrants from countries like Norway. Trump is said to have made the comments in the Oval Office during a meeting about immigration with a bipartisan group of senators.

The White House has not denied that Trump used the vulgarity, but Trump and some Republicans have disputed public accounts of the meeting.

Trump defended himself on Sunday night, declaring that "I'm not a racist". He said comments attributed to him "weren't made".

The president's defence appeared to not sway the sizable crowd of Haitians waving their country's flag who gathered near the foot of a bridge leading to Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach to jeer at Trump as the motorcade returned from the golf club.

The Haitians and their supporters shouted, "Our country is not a s***hole," according to video posted by WPEC-TV, and engaged in a shouting match with the pro-Trump demonstrators who typically gather on the other side of the street.