Hoyer blasts Trump for 'racist rhetoric'
© Greg Nash

House Minority Whip Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerGOP expects Senate to be in session next week without coronavirus deal This week: Negotiators hunt for coronavirus deal as August break looms The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Fauci gives his COVID-19 vaccine estimate MORE (D-Md.) suggested President TrumpDonald John TrumpLincoln Project ad dubs Jared Kushner the 'Secretary of Failure' Pence: Chief Justice Roberts 'has been a disappointment to conservatives' Twitter bans Trump campaign until it deletes tweet with COVID-19 misinformation 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 LewisOregon drive-in cancels showing of 'Kindergarten Cop' after criticism about police portrayal States begin removing Capitol's Confederate statues on their own Two rare moments with John Lewis 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 DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinDemocrats seek to exploit Trump-GOP tensions in COVID-19 talks The Hill's Campaign Report: Who will Biden pick to be his running mate? Don't count out Duckworth in Biden VP race 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 NielsenTrump's acting ICE chief to leave post Trump's fight with city leaders escalates Neo-Nazi pleads guilty to 'swatting' Black church, Cabinet official, journalists 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."