Donald Trump claimed on Sunday that he’s “not a racist” following a row over his use of the word “shithole” to describe countries in Africa.
Responding to reporters, the president said: "No, No. I am not a racist. I am the least racist person you have ever interviewed. That I can tell you."
According to a witness, Trump used the slur during a meeting about immigration in the Oval Office with a bipartisan group of six senators.
Trump addressed the row directly for the first time at the Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach as he arrived for dinner with House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California.
It emerged last week that Trump had reportedly asked: "Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?"
Democratic Senator Dick Durbin, who was in the room at the time, confirmed Trump’s use of "hate-filled, vile and racist" language.
Republican officials in the room initially said they did not remember the president using the slur, but later pushed back denying the charge.
Trump also denied making the statements attributed to him, but avoided specifics about what he did or did not say.
"Did you see what various senators in the room said about my comments?" he asked. "They weren't made."
On Friday, the African Union expressed “dismay and outrage” at the reports and demanded an apology from Trump.
The president is also accused of questioning the need to admit more Haitians to the US, saying he would prefer immigrants from countries like Norway instead.
The White House has not denied that Trump said "shithole" though Trump has already pushed back on some depictions of the meeting.
A confidant of Trump's told The Associated Press that the president spent Thursday evening calling friends and outside advisers to judge their reaction to his remarks.
Trump was not apologetic and denied he was racist, instead blaming the media for distorting his meaning, said the confidant.
The president said in a tweet on Friday that he "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." Trump wrote, "I have a wonderful relationship with Haitians. Probably should record future meetings - unfortunately, no trust!"