(HELENA) Helena Mayor Wilmot Collins said he was shocked by reports that President Donald Trump made vulgar statements while discussing immigration from Africa.
“We are talking about someone who’s representing the United States of America, and whatever he says rings far and wide, all around the world,” Collins said. “To hear such bigoted statements was uncalled-for.”
National news outlets, including NBC News, reported Thursday that the president made derogatory remarks about African countries during a meeting with members of Congress. On Twitter, Trump denied using the specific language that had been reported and said he had only made “tough” statements.
Collins grew up in Liberia and came to the U.S. as a refugee more than 20 years ago during a civil war in his home country. He said the reported statements send the wrong message to other immigrants to the U.S.
“When people are fleeing, they’re only fleeing because they want a second chance, they want safety,” said Collins. “They know what they’re fleeing from. The president of the free world should not be the one denigrating people.”
Collins said he’s also concerned that the public outcry over the reported comments will make it harder for the U.S. to work with countries in Africa.
“When you call our allies what you call them yesterday, it threatens our national security,” he said. “We have to look at the international ramifications of the statement.”
Collins said many Americans have an oversimplistic view of Africa, and fail to take into account the many differences among various countries.
“Sometimes people tend to lump everything together, which is wrong,” he said.