Seeking to limit the fallout from the reported comments that triggered outrage around the world, the US President described his language as “tough” but denied using a vulgar slur.
However, asked if he was “a racist”, the US leader stormed out of the White House’s Roosevelt Room where he had been attending a Martin Luther King Jr Day event.
The question was posed by American Urban Radio Network’s White House Correspondent and CNN contributor April Ryan, who initially asked if he was going to “give an apology for the statement yesterday?”
She followed up with: “Mr President, are you a racist?”
He did not answer as he hurriedly left the room.
Mr Trump has been widely criticised for the comments he reportedly made during a discussion about immigration from African nations.
“Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” he said, according to the Washington Post, after being presented with a proposal to restore protections for immigrants from those countries as part of a bipartisan immigration deal.
He added that the US should admit more people from places like Norway.
Mr Trump did not initially challenge the comments, which were heavily criticised by diplomats and both rival politicians and members of his own party.
He later took to Twitter to deny that he had used the phrase.
“The language used by me at the DACA meeting was tough, but this was not the language used,” he wrote, referring to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) programme, an Obama-era action that gives people brought to the US illegally as children the temporary right to live, study and work in America.
He added: “What was really tough was the outlandish proposal made – a big setback for DACA!”
The language used by me at the DACA meeting was tough, but this was…