ATLANTA - Local religious leaders blasted what they call President Donald Trump’s vile and racist words.
Sources told ABC News the president used a vulgar term to describe Haiti and African countries.
As the president took heat Friday for those comments, local lawmakers continued to urge Congress to pass new legislation on DACA -- Deferred Adjudication for Childhood Arrivals.
Trump responded to criticism over the comments in a tweet Friday, saying, “(I) never said anything derogatory about Haitians other than Haiti is, obviously, a very poor and troubled country.”
Never said anything derogatory about Haitians other than Haiti is, obviously, a very poor and troubled country. Never said “take them out.” Made up by Dems. I have a wonderful relationship with Haitians. Probably should record future meetings - unfortunately, no trust!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 12, 2018
Several religious leaders condemned the president’s alleged words on Friday, speaking from the pulpit of the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, where Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. preached up until his assassination.
They did not hold back on their condemnation.
The leaders basically called Trump a liar, and said he has a history of lying and trying to skirt the truth once people find out what the truth is.
The alleged comments came during a private meeting with lawmakers Thursday. Trump questioned why the U.S. would admit Haitians or people from “s---hole countries” in Africa, expressing a preference instead for immigrants from Norway, a majority white nation.
Rev. Raphael Warnock was among the group of five spiritual leaders who said the comments hurt the country.
"This speech that we are hearing from Donald Trump is once again poisoning the atmosphere and leaving an ugly scar on the soul of our nation," Warnock said.
“His words continue to do irreparable harm to many, to an entire country and the country in which we live,” said Rabbi Peter Berg.
Channel 2’s Dave Huddleston asked Warnock about comments from U.S. Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., who was in the meeting and said he doesn’t recall the comments.
He released a joint statement with U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., saying, “We do not recall the president saying these comments specifically.”
“Mr. Trump doesn't have a good record for telling the truth. There were several people in the room,” Warnock said. “What we are hearing from the White House not just last evening but the last several months, is not tough words, it’s hateful words, they're bigoted words, and they are beneath the presidency.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who was also at the meeting to try to sell the president on a compromise plan to protect about 800,000 mostly younger immigrants from deportation, chimed in at the meeting to defend immigrants.
"Following comments by the president, I said my piece directly to him yesterday," Graham said. "The president and all those attending the meeting know what I said and how I feel."
Graham added: "Diversity has always been our strength, not our weakness. In reforming immigration we cannot lose these American Ideals."
Back in Georgia, lawmakers told Channel 2’s Richard Elliot, they don’t think that kind of language helps negotiations to reach bipartisan legislation over DACA.
Javier Velazquez is a so-called Dreamer. His parents brought him to the U.S. from Mexico when he was 11 months old.
Velazquez told Elliot that he doesn’t think much of Trump’s alleged comments. If no agreement is reached, there’s a chance that he could be deported.
“It’s scary to hear remarks like that. I think, you know, it reminds me of immigrants that came almost 100 years ago,” Velazquez said.
He joined others from the Georgia Hispanic-Latino community in asking Congress to reach an agreement on DACA.
Along with Perdue’s statement about the alleged comments, Georgia’s senior U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson sent a statement saying, “If that’s true, he owes the people of Haiti and all of mankind an apology.”
Gwinnett County lawmaker Pedro Marin told Elliot he still hopes both sides can reach an agreement before a government shutdown, but said Trump’s alleged comments only hurt those efforts.
“There’s no place for a president of this country, the United States, to do that type of comment,” Marin said.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.
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