United States President Donald Trump on Friday denied reports that said he had described certain nations as “shithole countries”. In a tweet, Trump claimed his purported derogatory comments at a meeting on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA programme, on Thursday had been made up by the Democratic Party.

The programme protects children of undocumented immigrants to the United States from deportation. On Friday, Trump said that though he had used “tough language” at the DACA meeting, “this [the term ‘shithole countries’] was not the language used”.

Trump had reportedly used the words to refer to third-world nations from Africa, along with Haiti and El Salvador, when senators in his office were discussing means to protect immigrants in the US. Trump interrupted the meeting and said, “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?”

In particular, Trump was aghast with the idea of taking in Haitian immigrants. He reportedly said, “Why do we need more Haitians? Take them out.” However, on Friday, Trump denied that he made the comments.

Trump had rejected a bipartisan deal on the DACA programme to protect its participants while increasing border security. On Friday, he called the deal “a big step backwards”, and blamed the Democratic Party senators for it. “I want a merit based system of immigration and people who will help take our country to the next level,” he said. “I want safety and security for our people. I want to stop the massive inflow of drugs. I want to fund our military.”

Meanwhile, the United Nations Human Rights office decried Trump’s remarks as “racist” and inciting xenophobia, Reuters reported. “You cannot dismiss entire countries and continents as “shitholes”, whose entire populations, who are not white, are therefore not welcome,” UN human rights spokesman Rupert Colville said.

A judge in San Francisco had on January 9 temporarily barred the Trump administration from ending the DACA programme. The federal government had announced in September 2017 that it would cancel the programme. Subsequently, the decision was challenged in several courts.

On January 9, District Judge William Alsup ruled that the DACA programme must remain in place until the federal cases were resolved.