Donald Trump has told journalists he is “the least racist person you've ever interviewed” following reports that he referred to Haiti and Africa as “s***hole counties”.
The incendiary comments, allegedly made during a private meeting, prompted forthright condemnation from both the UN and African Union, while politicians from both main US parties described them as racist.
Mr Trump was asked about them on Sunday as he arrived for dinner at his private golf club with House majority leader Kevin McCarthy.
When questioned by a reporter, Mr Trump replied: “No. I’m not a racist. I’m the least racist person you have ever interviewed.”
The president has denied making the disparaging remarks but Democrat Senator Richard Durbin, who was in the White House meeting, said Mr Trump had used the term.
Republican Senator Jeff Flake claimed he was told about the remarks by colleagues, who attended the meeting, before the news reports emerged.
“I heard that account before the account even went public,” he said on ABC's This Week programme.
Their accounts conflicted with reports from others present at the meeting, one of whom denied Mr Trump had used the term, while another said he did not recall the president making the comments.
Republican Senator David Perdue, who was at the meeting, called the reports a “gross misrepresentation”.
“I’m telling you, he did not use that word,” Mr Perdue told This Week.
Congress is currently seeking a bipartisan compromise to salvage the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, which was the subject of the meeting at which the comments attributed to Mr Trump were allegedly made.
Mr Trump has said he is “ready, willing and able” to reach a deal on DACA to protect illegal immigrants brought to the US as children from being deported, but says he does not believe the Democrats want an agreement to prolong it.
The president had earlier tweeted that the existing programme would “probably” be discontinued.
“DACA is probably dead because the Democrats don’t really want it, they just want to talk and take desperately needed money away from our military,” he said on Twitter.
Agencies contributed to this report
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