US President Donald Trump has denied using offensive language African nations as well as El Salvador and Haiti, remarks that prompted condemnation from around the world.
The comment made in a meeting with lawmakers on Thursday - first reported by the Washington Post and then confirmed by other news outlets - was in reference to suggestions the US restore protections for immigrants from those countries.
As the furore grew, the White House issued a statement that did not deny the remarks.
However on Friday the president took to Twitter to say he did not use the crude word. "The language used by me ... was tough, but this was not the language used," the president wrote.
A top Senate Democrat present at the discussion on immigration policy said he heard Trump say the words as well as other offensive language.
"He said these hateful things and he said them repeatedly," said Dick Durbin. He added that he hadn't seen anything reported incorrectly about Trump's choice of words.
Trump said things that were "hate-filled, vile and racist," Durbin told reporters. "I cannot believe that in the history of the White House, in that Oval Office, any president has ever spoken the words that I personally heard our president speak yesterday."
The United Nations called Trump's comments "shocking," "shameful" and "racist."
"If confirmed, these are shocking and shameful comments from the president of the United States. Sorry, but there is no other word one can use but 'racist'," said Rupert Colville, spokesman for UN rights chief Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein.
"You cannot dismiss entire countries and continents ... whose entire populations, who are not white, are therefore not welcome," he added.
The African Union also blasted the US leader, recalling in a statement how the United States had a shameful history of bringing in slaves from the continent.
AU spokeswoman Ebba Kalondo added that Trump's statement "flies in the face of all accepted behaviour and practice."
Botswana went so far as to summon the US ambassador over the remarks, "to clarify whether Botswana is regarded this way," the Ministry of International Affairs said in a statement.
Politicians in South Africa also reacted with disbelief.
"We would not deign to make comments as derogatory about any country facing difficulties," said Jesse Duarte, deputy secretary general of the ruling ANC, according to local media.
Others responded to the slur with humour.
"Personally ... I'm offended Mr President ... Not only does he think brown countries are ...
he thinks what? - that we're never going to know what he said?," said comedian and Daily Show host Trevor Noah, a South African.
"I mean, don't get me wrong, it might take a few weeks, but as soon as the news donkey reaches our village we'll be so mad!"
Trump was reportedly frustrated when the lawmakers at the meeting floated the idea of restoring protections for immigrants from the countries as part of a bipartisan immigration deal.
"Why are we having all these people come here?" Trump said, according to reports. He then suggested that the US allow in more people from countries like Norway.
The proposal came from senators who met with Trump in the Oval Office, according to the Washington Post. They suggested restoring special residency status for Salvadorans and other nationals in legislation that would also fund a wall on the US-Mexico border and
make changes to the visa lottery system.
Trump on Monday revoked the special residency status of some 200,000 Salvadorean nationals who have been allowed to live in the US since a 2001 earthquake. Similar temporary protection for people from Haiti, Nicaragua and Sudan, all countries that have suffered major natural disasters or civil wars in recent decades, ended last year.
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