Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson said President Donald Trump should apologize for protesting the admission of what the president reportedly described as “people from shithole countries” into the U.S., during a discussion with lawmakers about immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and African countries.
The remark was “totally inappropriate,” Johnson said, according to a transcript provided by his office of an interview with Wisconsin Public Television.
He joined the growing chorus of Republican members of Congress criticizing Trump, including U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Janesville, who called the remarks “very unfortunate, unhelpful.”
Trump’s remarks reportedly came in response to a bipartisan immigration proposal from Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Dick Durbin, D-Ill.
Trump said in a Twitter post Friday that “the language used by me at the DACA meeting was tough, but this was not the language used.”
Johnson, R-Oshkosh, said: “The best thing he can do is just admit it and apologize for it and move on.”
“You have a certain responsibility, a certain decorum you have to conduct yourself in public with,” Johnson said. “You have children watching. You have nations watching.”
Johnson has tried to preserve a delicate balance between supporting Trump and periodically criticizing his most controversial statements. He rebuked Trump after the 2016 release of the “Access Hollywood” tape in which Trump bragged about grabbing women in the genitals, and after Trump attacked a Mexican-American judge, Gonzalo Curiel.
Other Republican senators also criticized Trump, including Sen. Jeff Flake, of Arizona, who called the president’s remarks “abhorrent and repulsive,” and Rep. Mike Simpson, of Idaho, who called them “stupid and irresponsible and childish.” Sen. Susan Collins, of Maine, called them “inappropriate and out of bounds” and said they could hurt efforts for a bipartisan immigration agreement.
Florida GOP Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said Trump’s comments were “completely unacceptable,” telling WPLG-TV in Miami that “if that’s not racism, I don’t know how you can define it.”
Democratic U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, of Madison, said on Twitter that “the President’s comments from the Oval Office are sickening, hateful and divisive.
“He should take responsibility for them,” Baldwin wrote.
Also Friday, state Democratic Party chairwoman Martha Laning responded to Fox News commentator Jesse Watters, who defended Trump’s comments by saying he reflected how people in Wisconsin talk in bars.
“While enjoying snowmobiling, I’ve stopped at many bars to warm up and get something to eat and I’ve never heard anyone speak in the way Fox News claims,” Laning said.
She also called on Gov. Scott Walker and Ryan to denounce Trump and defend Wisconsin in the wake of Watters’ remarks. Walker has not commented.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.