House Speaker Paul Ryan said Friday it was "very unfortunate" that President Donald Trump used the term "shithole" to describe Haiti and African countries the previous day in a discussion with lawmakers on immigration at the White House.
"So, first thing that came to my mind: very unfortunate, unhelpful," Ryan said, adding that his own ancestors who immigrated to the United States from Ireland faced similar hostilities when they arrived in America.
"I thought about my own family.
My family, like a whole lot of people came from Ireland on what they called 'coffin ships' and worked the railroads," Ryan said.
"It is a beautiful story of America, and that is a great story.
That is the story today, and that is the story we had yesterday, and that is what makes this country so exceptional and unique in the first place."
He continued: "We've got great friends from Africa in Janesville who are doctors, who are just incredible citizens.
And I just think it's important that we celebrate that."
Numerous media reports and Democratic Sen.
Dick Durbin have said Trump questioned in the Thursday meeting why the US should accept immigrants from "shithole countries," referring to Haiti, El Salvador, and African nations.
"Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?"
Trump said, according to The Washington Post, the outlet that broke the news.
Trump then reportedly suggested the US instead accept immigrants from nations like Norway, whose prime minister he met with one day earlier.
Though Trump issued a vague denial that he used "that language" to describe the countries, a senator who attended the meeting confirmed Friday that he heard Trump use the word "not just once, but repeatedly."
"In the course of his comments, [Trump] said things which were hate-filled, vile, and racist," Sen.
Dick Durbin of Illinois said.
"To no surprise, the president started tweeting this morning denying that he using those words.
It is not true.
He said these hate-filled things, and he said them repeatedly."
Ryan is the most senior congressional Republican to weigh in on Trump's comments so far.