What: Oversight of the United States Department of Homeland Security   Witnesses:  The Honorable Kirstjen Nielsen  Secretary Department Of Homeland Security  Washington, DC
What: Oversight of the United States Department of Homeland Security Witnesses: The Honorable Kirstjen Nielsen Secretary Department Of Homeland Security Washington, DC
PHOTO: Pool
Now playing
01:21
DHS chief: Trump used 'tough language'
President Donald Trump listens during a meeting with lawmakers on immigration policy in the Cabinet Room of the White House, Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Donald Trump listens during a meeting with lawmakers on immigration policy in the Cabinet Room of the White House, Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
PHOTO: Evan Vucci/AP
Now playing
02:27
Trump slams immigrants from 'shithole countries'
PHOTO: CNN
Now playing
01:13
Van Jones: Trump comments textbook racism
PHOTO: CNN
Now playing
02:25
Trump voter: 'Shithole' remark unpresidential
Lindsey Graham interview by CNN affiliate WIS following an MLK event in West Columbia, SC.  Sen. Lindsey Graham speaks at annual MLK breakfast in West Columbia, SC. He addressed the President
Lindsey Graham interview by CNN affiliate WIS following an MLK event in West Columbia, SC. Sen. Lindsey Graham speaks at annual MLK breakfast in West Columbia, SC. He addressed the President's recent comments, DACA and MLK's legacy.
PHOTO: WIS
Now playing
00:46
Graham: Trump discourse is 'embarrassing'
PHOTO: CNN
Now playing
02:15
Lewandowski tries to explain Trump comments
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 11: U.S. President Donald Trump leads a prison reform roundtable in the Roosevelt Room at the White House, on January 11, 2018 in Washington, DC. State and local leaders joined Trump to discuss programs intended to help prisoners re-enter the workforce among other policy initiatives. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 11: U.S. President Donald Trump leads a prison reform roundtable in the Roosevelt Room at the White House, on January 11, 2018 in Washington, DC. State and local leaders joined Trump to discuss programs intended to help prisoners re-enter the workforce among other policy initiatives. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
PHOTO: Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Now playing
02:30
Conflicting accounts on Trump meeting comments
cory booker cuomo 01162018
cory booker cuomo 01162018
PHOTO: CNN
Now playing
02:05
Booker: Trump's words fester, they poison
Paul Altidor Haiti ambassador to US
Paul Altidor Haiti ambassador to US
PHOTO: CNN
Now playing
01:49
Ambassador: Haiti is often misunderstood in US
Now playing
01:32
Immigrants to Trump: Treat us with dignity
PHOTO: CNN
Now playing
00:29
GOP Rep. Mia Love: Trump comments racist
PHOTO: CNN
Now playing
01:15
Haitan-American Rep.: I am the American dream
little haiti miami comments hartung pkg_00003830.jpg
little haiti miami comments hartung pkg_00003830.jpg
Now playing
02:57
Haitian woman: Now we see real face of Trump
WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 29:  NAACP President Derrick Johnson addresses the Newsmaker Luncheon at the National Press Club August 29, 2017 in Washington, DC. Johnson said that violent rallies like what happened in Charlottesville, Virginia, will happen again as long as President Donald Trump is in office and projects a permissive attitued about white nationalism.  (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 29: NAACP President Derrick Johnson addresses the Newsmaker Luncheon at the National Press Club August 29, 2017 in Washington, DC. Johnson said that violent rallies like what happened in Charlottesville, Virginia, will happen again as long as President Donald Trump is in office and projects a permissive attitued about white nationalism. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
PHOTO: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Now playing
02:01
NAACP President on Trump: We know he's a racist
PHOTO: CNN
Now playing
01:04
MLK nephew: Trump is racially ignorant
title:  duration: 00:00:00 site:  author:  published:  intervention: yes description:
title: duration: 00:00:00 site: author: published: intervention: yes description:
PHOTO: WLS
Now playing
02:17
Sen. Durbin: Trump said those hateful things

Story highlights

Nielsen was grilled by Sens. Booker and Durbin over her memories of the Trump meeting

(CNN) —  

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen released a blistering statement Wednesday after being criticized over her recollection of the meeting last week where President Donald Trump reportedly called African nations “shithole” countries.

In her statement Wednesday, Nielsen said she is “thoroughly disappointed” that attention keeps being given to the meeting, when “we have serious and urgent border and immigration issues to address.”

“I decline to spend any more of my time responding other than to say the obvious – I did not and will not lie under oath and say I heard something I didn’t,” Nielsen said in the statement.

During an oversight hearing Tuesday, Nielsen testified that she did not hear that specific word come from the President during the meeting. The White House did not initially deny that Trump had made the remark, but in subsequent days conflicting accounts emerged from participants in the meeting, and Trump tweeted that he had not used that word, but did use “tough” language.

“I did not hear that word used, no sir,” Nielsen testified at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, when asked if the President had used that word or similar language to disparage African countries in the meeting with lawmakers on immigration policy.

“The conversation was very impassioned. I don’t dispute that the President was using tough language; others in the room were also using tough language,” Nielsen said.

Booker slams DHS secretary’s ‘amnesia’ on Trump’s reported ‘shithole’ comment

Democratic Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Dick Durbin of Illinois grilled Nielsen over her testimony.

“The commander in chief in an Oval Office meeting referring to people from African countries and Haitians with the most vile and vulgar language, that language festers. When ignorance and bigotry is allied with power it is a dangerous force in our country. Your silence and your amnesia is complicity,” Booker said.

Nielsen also noted at one point that Sen. Lindsey Graham had used strong language – prompting Durbin to speak on Graham’s behalf. The South Carolina Republican had not yet arrived at the hearing.

“I will just say for the record, Senator Graham spoke up in a way that I respect very much, countering what the President had said about countries in Africa,” Durbin said. “Reminding the President that his family did not come to America with great skills or wealth, but they came here as most families do. Looking for a chance to prove themselves and make this a better nation. And in a defense of Senator Graham, his strong words repeated exactly the words used by the President, which you cannot remember.”

CNN’s Veronica Stracqualursi and David Shortell contributed to this report.