PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Despite his denial, President Donald Trump is facing a massive rebuke from the Delaware Valley’s Haitian community.
When Paul Rolland stands by the Haitian flag, he’s also standing up against disparaging remarks against his home country, especially when they reportedly come from his president.
“I feel very disrespected,” said Rolland, who is a member of the Haitian Coalition of Philadelphia. “I feel it’s almost an assault.”
On Friday, Trump denied reports that he referred to African nations as “s***hole countries” during a private meeting with lawmakers the day before, adding that he should “probably record future meetings.”
The White House did not deny Trump had used those remarks.
But Rolland, who spent two decades teaching in the Philadelphia School District, says he’s not surprised by the news.
“The only thing consistent about him is hatred, his racism that is tearing at the fabric of our society,” Rolland said.
He adds the damage began on the campaign trail.
“If you’re not white, male, rich, it seems in his mind, you’re worth nothing,” Rolland said. “It’s very ignorant and unfair to characterize a whole community and a whole race, a whole continent, using the terms he’s been using that’s not even suitable for television.”
Ernst Destine, an American citizen who owns a Haitian grocery store in Olney, agrees.
“It is racist, yes it is, 100 percent,” Destine said.
But those in the Haitian community here in Philadelphia aren’t the only ones responding to those comments. Some lawmakers and former government officials are, as well.
Republican Sen. Pat Toomey wrote on Twitter that he hoped the president “retracts the suggestion,” while Republican Congressman Patrick Meehan wrote, “The President’s words were offensive, divisive, unproductive and unbecoming of the office. They come at a time when important negotiations on immigration issues are at a critical point. It’s possible to fight for principals without resorting to hurtful rhetoric.”
Democratic Sen. Bob Casey referred to the remarks as “wrong, hateful, and divisive,” while Democratic Congressman Bob Brady wrote, “I strongly condemn the racist comments made by Donald Trump. The comments were classless, un-American, and beneath the dignity of his office.”
Former Vice President Joe Biden also weighed in, tweeting: “It’s not how a president should speak. It’s not how a president should behave. Most of all, it’s not what a president should believe. We’re better than this.”
Meanwhile, Rolland has a direct message for the president.
“I would say, ‘Mr. President, you’ve got to grow up into the position you’re holding. It’s a position of great responsibility and people expect better,’” said Rolland.
He says he’s proud to be Haitian and proud to call Philadelphia home.
“The City of Brotherly Love, the city of freedom,” he said. “This nation is at its best when it’s a welcoming nation.”