The top U.S. diplomat and a top African official tried Thursday to move past President Donald Trump’s slur about Africa, deeming it a closed matter that need not be revisited.
“I believe that this incident is of the past,” African Union Commission Chairman Moussa Faki said at a news conference with visiting U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
The two were questioned repeatedly by U.S. and international media about the January incident, in which Trump referred in a private meeting to “shithole countries” in Africa, triggering widespread outrage across the continent. Neither were eager to dwell on the topic.
Faki and Tillerson both pointed to a letter Trump sent the AU officer and other African leaders shortly after the incident in which he affirmed his respect for Africa. He said Tillerson’s visit was evidence of the close U.S.-Africa relationship.
Tillerson, who this week becomes the most senior Trump administration official to set foot in Africa, did not directly respond to several specific questions about Trump’s remark and whether Africa deserves an apology from the United States.
“I think the US commitment to Africa is quite clear in terms of the importance we place on the relationship,” Tillerson said.