Republicans Have a New Strategy for Trump’s “Shithole”: Play Dumb

But voters don’t seem to be buying it.

It would be a difficult task for any Republican to defend President Donald Trump amid the intense backlash over his recent remarks referring to African nations as “shitholes.”

But while most Republicans have remained silent on the controversy, Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) on Sunday fumbled into an awkward defense of the president when she offered Norway as an example of a country Trump is standing up for.

“He is standing up for a lot of the countries that where we have seen some…” Ernst said in response to a woman’s criticism that Trump is causing damage to American allies with his “white supremacy talk.”

“Could you name a few?” one audience member asked.

 “Yeah, you bet,” Ernst said. “Norway is one them.” (During the same immigration meeting, Trump reportedly asked why the United States doesn’t have more immigrants from countries such as Norway.)

The room erupted in laughter.

“You know you laugh, but folks, who borders Norway? Russia!” Ernst continued.

On Monday, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen—who was in the room during Trump’s reported “shithole” remarks last week—testified under oath that she did not know if Norway was a predominantly white country. She also claimed that the president was referencing a merit-based immigration system.

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J) slammed Nielsen for telling senators that she did not hear Trump use the word “shithole” as widely reported and confirmed by lawmakers in the room last week. “Your silence and your amnesia is complicity,” Booker said.


Mother Jones was founded as a nonprofit in 1976 because we knew corporations and the wealthy wouldn't fund the type of hard-hitting journalism we set out to do.

Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2019 demands.

We Recommend


Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.


Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.


We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.