Ex-governor general Michaelle Jean blasts Trump's reported comment
President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference with Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg in the East Room of the White House, Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press
Published Friday, January 12, 2018 11:06AM EST
Last Updated Friday, January 12, 2018 1:16PM EST
Warning: This report contains language that some readers may find offensive
Former governor general Michaelle Jean was among those sharply criticizing U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday for reportedly using vulgar language to describe Haiti and countries in Africa.
Jean, who was born in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince and current secretary general of the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie, called Trump's reported remarks "insulting."
"It was so disturbing this morning to hear President Trump's comments reported all over the news calling my poor native land and African countries 'shithole' nations," Jean said in the statement to The Canadian Press. "It is such an insult before humanity."
Trump was widely reported on Thursday to have questioned in a meeting with lawmakers why the United States would accept more immigrants from Haiti and "shithole countries" in Africa rather than from places such as Norway.
On Friday morning, Trump tweeted that he used "tough" language at the meeting, but not the reported vulgarity. Still, Jean, 60, who was Canada's governor general from 2005 to 2010, made no bones about her feelings.
"For the first representative of the United States of America to speak in such a manner is quite troubling and offensive," Jean said in the statement.
Jean, a refugee from Haiti who came to Canada in 1968 and was raised in Thetford Mines, Que., also noted that Friday was the eighth anniversary of a devastating earthquake that struck her native country, one of 57 member French-language countries -- many from Africa -- that form La Francophonie.
Additionally, Jean is co-president of the non-profit Michaelle Jean Foundation, which works with arts organizations and other private- and public-sector groups to help young people across the country.
Trump's reported comments were also taken personally by Dr. Andrew Furey, an orthopedic surgeon in St. John's, N.L., and founder of Team Broken Earth, a group of medical professionals who responded to the Haitian earthquake in 2010 and has since returned to the country several times.
"In addition to being insulting to us, more importantly it's quite disrespectful and insulting to the people that we're trying to help and the friends and colleagues that we've made there over the last eight years," Furey said in an interview. "It's profoundly disappointing to hear someone in that office use that language."
While Trump's various statements have frequently been deemed offensive, Furey said that's no reason to accept them. It's incumbent on everyone as global citizens, he said, to challenge the president's views on countries outside the U.S., especially those that are poor in and need.
Although some have defended Trump's pronouncements as straight talk, his purported comments did spark widespread outrage, both in the U.S. and abroad.
Former Canadian prime minister Kim Campbell was among those denouncing the president's "abominable and ignorant" views and statements.
"(I) have known many fine Haitians -- including a former governor general of Canada," Campbell said in a tweet. "Trump is unworthy to speak of them!"
Just in case you lose sight of how abominable and ignorant the president's views and statements are, watch this. I have seen some of Cooper's reports from Haiti, and have known many fine Haitians- including a fmr Governor General of Canada. Trump is unworthy to speak of them! https://t.co/ZJXqK3aud7— Kim Campbell (@AKimCampbell) January 12, 2018
The African Union said it was "frankly alarmed" by Trump's comments.
"Given the historical reality of how many Africans arrived in the United States as slaves, this statement flies in the face of all accepted behaviour and practice," union spokeswoman Ebba Kalondo said.
Botswana's government called Trump's comment "reprehensible and racist," while Senegal's President Macky Sall said he was shocked.
South Africa's ruling African National Congress said the comments were "extremely offensive," while opposition leader Mmusi Maimane said the "hatred of Obama's roots now extends to an entire continent."