U.S. Sen. David Perdue is coming under more scrutiny for his assertion that President Donald Trump didn’t refer to Haiti and African nations in vulgar terms, with a Republican colleague who was in the closed-door meeting taking what appears to be a swipe at him.
Already, the office of U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin – a Democrat who was also in the closed-door meeting – has criticized the first-term Georgia senator’s credibility. On Monday, The Charleston Post & Courier brought word that U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, is sticking to his story.
“My memory hasn't evolved,” Graham told the newspaper. “I know what was said and I know what I said.”
Graham declined to comment when The Post & Courier’s Jamie Lovegrove asked him whether Trump specifically used the term “shithole” to describe the countries. But neither did he veer from his comments to U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, who said Friday Graham told him reports of Trump’s remarks were “basically accurate.”
Perdue has faced furious backlash for his shifting story about what Trump said in an Oval Office meeting last week on immigration proposals.
He initially said he couldn’t recall whether Trump used the profanity. Days later, though, he and U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton – another Trump ally at the meeting – went on Sunday talk shows to say that Trump never used that language. Perdue repeatedly called it a “gross misrepresentation.”
Democrats have seized on the course correction to paint him as a brazen Trump lackey. And two groups – the Resist Trump Tuesdays and the Georgia Alliance for Social Justice – plan a Tuesday rally at his office to slam his shifting stance on Trump’s remarks.
“His denial of Trump’s inflammatory statements last week are an embarrassment to the people he was elected to represent,” said Caroline Stover, organizer of Resist Trump Tuesdays. “We no longer have any faith in his integrity or ability to do his job.”
The reporter who broke the story about the expletive – the Washington Post’s Josh Dawsey – might have another explanation for the Perdue denial.
Dawsey tweeted late Sunday that a White House official told him there was “debate internally on whether Trump said ‘shithole’ or ‘shithouse.’ Perdue and Cotton seem to have heard latter, this person said, and are using to deny.”
Regardless of which vulgarity he used, Graham confirmed that he challenged Trump after he dropped the curse word. He told the Post & Courier that he spoke up, telling the president that “America is an idea – not a race.”
"I tried to make it very clear to the president that when you say 'I’m an American,' what does that mean?" Graham said. "It doesn’t mean that they’re black or white, rich or poor. It means that you buy into an ideal of self-representation, compassion, tolerance, the ability to practice one’s religion without interference and the acceptance of those who are different.”