MSNBC anchor, NBC reporter debate Trump 'preference' for Nordic immigrants

MSNBC anchor Ayman Mohyeldin on Monday defended his comments saying that President TrumpDonald John TrumpFacebook releases audit on conservative bias claims Harry Reid: 'Decriminalizing border crossings is not something that should be at the top of the list' Recessions happen when presidents overlook key problems MORE has a “preference” for immigrant from Nordic countries after NBC News White House correspondent Kelly O’Donnell rebuked him on-air. 

Mohyeldin opened the morning segment on MSNBC by discussing the Trump administration’s controversial new “public charge” rule that dramatically increases the government's ability to reject green cards for lower-income immigrants who are deemed likely to depend on government aid like food stamps, housing assistance and Medicaid.

“We know President Trump proposed this update last year, according to our own reporting,” Mohyeldin said to O’Donnell. “According to the former Homeland Security secretary, it’s designed to promote immigrant self-sufficiency to ensure they are not likely to become burdens on American taxpayers.”

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“We know the president has always had a preference for immigrants from Nordic countries,” Mohyeldin continued. “He’s made that very clear as opposed to other more disadvantaged countries. Walk us through the impact on these immigrants. Why now?”

The anchor was referring to Trump reportedly saying last year that immigrants from Haiti and African countries as from “shithole countries” while suggesting the U.S. should bring in more immigrants from countries such as Norway. 

The comments, first reported by The Washington Post, were made in an Oval Office meeting with lawmakers during a discussion on protections for immigrants. 

O’Donnell, however, pushed back on Mohyeldin's comments, saying she wasn’t sure the president has expressed a preference for Nordic countries.

“That is something where I’m not sure where you’re getting that from. He certainly said he has an emphasis on merit-based immigration,” she said. “And he has talked about that extensively. So that matches up to his rhetoric.”

Mohyeldin did not respond to her criticism during the live segment. But after the celebrity chef Tom Colicchio pointed them out on Twitter, he wrote that it was "understandable" that someone would forget them.

“Thanks .@tomcolicchio,” Mohyeldin wrote. “There have been so many disparaging comments made about immigrants by this President, it’s understandable why this would have been forgotten.”

O’Donnell then wrote in Twitter that there is a “difference between something said in a private meeting and today’s actual public policy proposal.”

“I try to stick to what we can report and not a flip comment,” she added.

Hamza Shaban, a reporter for The Washington Post, noted that O’Donnell’s own network reported on the comments last year.

White House spokesman Raj Shah at the time did not deny the president made the comments, instead saying in a statement that "certain Washington politicians choose to fight for foreign countries, but President Trump will always fight for the American people."