Renacci defends, Kasich condemns Trump‘s “s-hole” remark

Darrel Rowland The Columbus Dispatch Wehrman Dispatch Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON — As politicians from both parties weighed in on reports that President Donald Trump referred to countries such as Haiti and El Salvador as “shithole” countries, two key Ohio Republicans responded in wildly different ways.

Ohio Rep. Jim Renacci, who dropped out of the GOP gubernatorial primary Thursday in order to run for the U.S. Senate, appeared on Fox & Friends, where he defended the man he desperately needs for his fledgling U.S. Senate campaign.

“I’ve said all along the president many times says what people are thinking,” Renacci told Fox & Friends host Brian Kilmeade.

It’s a line the Wadsworth Republican has used repeatedly when asked about Trump, but it’s the first time Renacci has applied it to a statement widely condemned as overtly racist.

“I learned as a business guy you have to be careful what you say because people pick everything up,” Renacci said. “Believe me, when I have a mic on I have got to watch what I say. That is a business guy going into a political career.”

Elsewhere in the interview, Renacci remarked, “I think a lot like the president.”

Trump‘s comments, made in an Oval Office meeting Thursday with lawmakers during a discussion about immigration, were confirmed by Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, Friday morning.

Renacci, appearing on Fox, said America shouldn’t be judging the president by what he is saying now, adding that he “absolutely” wants Trump by his side as he seeks the GOP Senate nomination.

“I always say judge the president after four years. Let’s judge the president after what we’ve done — let’s not judge the president on what he says,” Renacci said.

The Fox interview is posted on Renacci‘s Twitter feed — although his remarks defending Trump‘s comments were not included.

Appearing on MSNBC a few hours later, Ohio Gov. John Kasich called Trump’s comments “not helpful” and “terrible.”

“When you talk about Africa, for example, this is a place that is ripe for both growth and problems,” Kasich said, saying he has worked on debt relief in Africa. “If you don’t have economic growth you become ripe for terrorism.”

“We don’t want to demean people and the bottom line is we’re all made in the image of the Lord and we don’t want to say disparaging things.”

Kasich, speaking on MSNBC Live with Hallie Jackson about a New York Times editorial on immigration he authored with Jeb Bush Jr., largely refused to comment on Renacci’s remarks that Trump often says what others are thinking and that Trump should be judged after four years in office.

“I’m not getting into the Senate race,” Kasich said, later adding, “I don’t agree with him … I don’t think you wait four years. I’ve been supportive of the president when I think he’s been right and I’ve been opposed to him when I think he hasn’t been right.”

Asked if he believed Trump was a racist, Kasich also demurred.

“I don‘t call names,” he said, adding that Trump‘s comments were inappropriate.

Renacci entered the Senate race after Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel abruptly left it for family reasons in part because he said he was urged to run by Trump aides. If he wins the GOP nomination, he will face Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, in November.

 He tweeted Thursday: “When President asks you to run — you do it.”

Renacci spokesman James Slepian said the congressman was glad to hear that Trump is now denying the remark.

“Jim believes that one of our nation‘s greatest strengths is that we are a proud nation of immigrants from all backgrounds, ethnicities and corners of the globe—a view Jim believes the president shares as well,” Slepian said.

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