Hoyer blasts Trump for 'racist rhetoric'
© Greg Nash

House Minority Whip Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerOn The Money: Weekly jobless claims fall to 498K, hitting new post-lockdown low | House to advance appropriations bills in June, July House to consider anti-Asian hate crimes bill, protections for pregnant workers this month Top Democrat: Bill to boost Capitol security likely to advance this month MORE (D-Md.) suggested President TrumpDonald TrumpThe Memo: The Obamas unbound, on race Iran says onus is on US to rejoin nuclear deal on third anniversary of withdrawal Assaults on Roe v Wade increasing MORE could be a "racist" on Tuesday for reportedly calling several nations "shithole countries" last week.

“If you use racist rhetoric, if you pursue policies based upon a racial premise, I consider that to be a definition of a racist," Hoyer told reporters. "The president articulates racist language and pursues policies based upon race. I think that’s the definition of a racist.”

When asked directly if he thinks Trump is a racist, Hoyer hedged his words but said the president's remarks were a telltale sign.

“I’m saying what he does is racist. Now, if what you do is racist, you certainly qualify for being a racist," Hoyer said. 

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Hoyer also endorsed a column written by Michael Gerson in The Washington Post published Monday saying Trump "incites racism as a political strategy." 

The column "expresses my views perfectly," Hoyer said.

The No. 2 House Democrat's remarks echo Rep. John LewisJohn LewisAdvocates sound alarm as restrictive voting laws pile up Alabama state legislature passes bill to name part of highway after John Lewis Alabama museum unveils restored Greyhound bus for Freedom Rides' 60th anniversary MORE (D-Ga.), a former civil rights movement activist, who deemed Trump a racist last weekend and said he will not attend the president's first State of the Union address.

Trump's comments, which reportedly came during a bipartisan meeting on immigration in the White House last week, have been corroborated by Sen. Dick DurbinDick DurbinAmerica's Jewish communities are under attack — Here are 3 things Congress can do Schumer 'exploring' passing immigration unilaterally if talks unravel On The Money: Incomes, consumer spending soared in March | Harris, senators work behind scenes on jobs package | Biden cancels some border wall construction MORE (D-Ill.), who also attended the meeting.

Two Republican senators in the meeting said they "do not recall" the president's comments, and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenLeft-leaning group to track which companies hire former top Trump aides Rosenstein: Zero tolerance immigration policy 'never should have been proposed or implemented' House Republican condemns anti-Trump celebrities during impeachment hearing MORE said Tuesday before a Senate panel that she did not remember the president using the expletive but said it was "possible" he could have.

The president himself has denied the reports of resisting immigration from Haiti, El Salvador and African nations during the meeting, and said Tuesday that he wants immigrants from "everywhere."

Trump has also said that he did not make the comments, saying Friday that the reported comments were "not the language used."