A growing number of nations are summoning US diplomats in the wake of President Donald Trump's "shithole" remark.
Top US diplomats in South Africa and Ghana were called on to meet with those governments, Undersecretary of State Steven Goldstein told CNN. Haiti, Botswana and Senegal have also summoned diplomats over the matter, and more diplomats are expected to be called this week, Goldstein said.
Five countries have now summoned US diplomats
More countries are expected to summon American diplomats this week
The summons add to the fallout over Trump's comments last week in which he referred to African nations as "shithole countries" during an Oval Office discussion about immigration. On Friday, he denied using that language and specifically denied making derogatory comments about Haiti, and went so far as to flatly say over the weekend that he is "not a racist."
South Africa's government announced a formal protest of the remarks on Sunday, acknowledging Trump's denial that the exact language was used but "noted further that President Trump's denial was not categorical, referring only to Haiti and not addressing the entirety of the statement attributed to him."
State Department officials said diplomats have been advised not to try to interpret or soften the President's remarks. Rather, they are encouraged to listen and acknowledge the countries' concerns. They were also instructed to emphasize areas of shared cooperation.
"The President has the right to make whatever remarks he wants and we respect the President," Goldstein said. But diplomats have been instructed to "reaffirm that the US remains committed to its relationships with these countries and cares deeply about their people," he added.
"They will have to work extra hard to send that message right now, but that's part of their responsibility. It doesn't change what they do," Goldstein said.