US President Donald Trump has denied using crude words attributed to him about Haiti, El Salvador and African countries. Reports that he had called them “shithole countries” in an Oval Office meeting generated a backlash worldwide.

One UN official called the remarks racist and said they opened “the door to humanity’s worst side”. But Mr Trump has tweeted that “this was not the language” he used in a meeting about immigration.

He wrote that the language he used was “tough, but this was not the language used”. Mr Trump‘s reported remark came as both Republican and Democratic lawmakers visited him on Thursday to propose a deal on immigration.

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Mr Trump was said to have told them that instead of granting temporary residency to citizens of countries hit by natural disasters, war or epidemics, the US should instead be taking in migrants from countries like Norway.

He was quoted as saying: “Why do we need more Haitians? Take them out.” The Washington Post, the New York Times, Politico and the Wall Street Journal all reported the comments, quoting eyewitnesses or people briefed on the meeting. The White House did not deny them. Trump wrote that he wanted “a merit based system of immigration and people who will help take our country to the next level”.