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Story highlights

House Speaker Paul Ryan recalled his own family history of being Irish immigrants

President Donald Trump has denied describing certain nations as 'shithole countries'

(CNN) —  

House Speaker Paul Ryan on Friday called President Donald Trump’s comments on immigration “unhelpful,” in his first public reaction to news that Trump referred to African nations as “shithole” countries.

“I read those comments later last night, the first thing that came to my mind was very unfortunate, unhelpful,” the Wisconsin Republican said at WisPolitics Luncheon in Milwaukee.

Ryan recalled his own family history of emigrating to the US from Ireland.

“So, I see this as a thing to celebrate,” he said. “And I think it’s a big part of our strength.”

Ryan specifically highlighted Haiti as a sign of that strength and highlighted friends in Janesville, Wisconsin, who are doctors and come from Africa.

Asked how Trump’s comments will affect immigration talks, Ryan responded, “We have to get it done.”

Trump on Thursday rejected a pitch from a bipartisan team of senators on a compromise immigration deal to protect DACA participants while increasing border security. “Why do we want all these people from ‘shithole countries’ coming here?” Trump told senators in the Oval Office in reference to African countries, according to a source briefed on the meeting, the comments from which were first reported by The Washington Post.

Trump on Friday denied describing certain nations as “shithole countries” during a meeting in which he rejected a bipartisan deal on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

He also denied demanding that Haitians be removed from negotiations about protected status for people from certain countries.

“The language used by me at the DACA meeting was tough, but this was not the language used. What was really tough was the outlandish proposal made - a big setback for DACA!” Trump tweeted.