Haitian-Americans in South Florida outraged by president's alleged remark

'He said he was going to be the champion of Haitians,' one man said

MIAMI – The counsel general of Haiti in Miami told Local 10 News on Friday that he is shocked and outraged about President Donald Trump's alleged controversial remark about Haiti.

Pascale Marra said the remark goes against a long history -- more than 200 years of friendship and cooperation between the U.S. and Haiti, which share the same democratic values.

Trump previously told Haitian-Americans: "I really want to be your greatest champion, and I will be your champion," while he was campaigning last year in Miami's Little Haiti. 

His promise is now in question after the comments allegedly made during a private immigration meeting with lawmakers. 

"He was very kind to the Haitians, he was very eloquent to them, and he was the first president to (have) ever visited Haitians, and he said he was going to be the champion of Haitians," Haitian-American Georges Sami Saati said. 

Saati, a member of the Republican Party, received Trump during his campaign visit to South Florida.

He doesn't deny that Trump possibly used the word "shithole" to describe Haiti and Africa, but he believes it's been taken out of context.

"But they have no confirmation yet," Saati said. "I want to see the tape. Don't get all upset, don't start criticizing, yelling. If he said it, he has to apologize, but if he did not say it, I think The Washington Post should apologize."

Other Haitians in South Florida called the words from the president hurtful.

"It just took the breath out of me," Saitinor Philius said. 

As Haitian-Americans gathered later in the day in Little Haiti to commemorate the 8-year anniversary of the devastating earthquake that hit Haiti, many expressed their outrage about the president's comment.

"We were planning to commemorate the 8th anniversary of the earthquake. We were shocked to hear comments made by President Donald Trump," Marleine Bastien said. "Haiti is not what he called it."

Haitians weren't the only people offended by the president's comments. People from dozens of countries took their oaths of citizenship Friday in South Florida as news spread about their new president's alleged statement.

"He is the president. He's going to do what he feels like doing," Youdelyn Mompremier, who is from Haiti, said. "I don't think anyone should say anything like that about any individual.

"Let's give him some more time to see what he can do."

"I kind of see his point, but I do think it's a little bit insensitive considering the situation in Haiti right now," Elizabeth Volmer said. 

The president, who appeared in a videotaped address, has big support from the newly hyphenated Venezuelans and Cubans, who support his hard line against those governments.

"He works a lot for the Americans. That's the important thing," Ana Quintero, from Venezeula, said. "Sometimes the way he expresses is ,I think, is not the right way to do it." 

"I think Trump is a good president for me," Mario Gonzalez, from Cuba, said. "Everyone needs to fix something. No one is perfect."

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle took a harder stance against the remark. 

"If that's not racism, I don't know how you can define it," U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., said. "This is the president of the United States, the leader of the free world, making these racist statements."

No tape is expected to be released as the comment was allegedly made in a private meeting, and it's unclear whether a recording even exists.

The president implied Friday morning on Twitter that maybe he should start recording meetings because there is no trust.


About the Authors:

Glenna Milberg joined Local 10 News in September 1999 to report on South Florida's top stories and community issues. She also serves as co-host on Local 10's public affairs broadcast, "This Week in South Florida."