Describing a country as a “shithole” isn’t going to endear you to anyone, but President Trump’s latest alleged outburst has struck a nerve with one particular biotech leader.
John Maraganore, CEO of Alnylam, who has a biotech CV as long as your arm, had this to say about reports that Trump asked at a White House meeting why he should accept immigrants from “shithole countries” rather than from places like Norway:
“My Mom and Dad came to this country from what was then a ‘shithole.’ They loved this country. I’m proud to be a ‘shitholer!’”
Maraganore’s voice should carry weight as a big hitter in an important U.S. growth industry. In addition to leading Alnylam, he’s chair of the Biotechnology Industry Organization and previously held senior positions at Millennium and Biogen (before it was named Biogen Idec). He also sits on the boards of a collection of biotechs and was previously an adviser at Third Rock Ventures.
Trump’s comment is reported to have been prompted by hearing that Haitians would be included in a bipartisan deal that aims to give legal status to immigrants illegally brought to the U.S. as children and asking whether they could be excluded. That is a topic that has already led to friction between the president and the biotech industry and an open letter last year denouncing proposals last year to ax the program.
The son of Greek immigrants, Chicago-born Maraganore was one of the 185 or so signatories of that letter, which voiced serious concerns about Trump’s push to rescind the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which has granted work and study rights to almost 800,000 people who entered the U.S. without documentation when under the age of 16. Democrats and Republicans are trying to reach agreement on legislation (the Dream Act) which would give students a chance to earn citizenship by attending college or serving in the military.
The White House hasn’t issued a denial that the comments were made, although Trump tweeted that he “never said anything derogatory about Haitians other than Haiti is, obviously, a very poor and troubled country.”
He continued: “Never said ‘take them out.’ Made up by Dems. I have a wonderful relationship with Haitians. Probably should record future meetings - unfortunately, no trust!”
Democratic Whip Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois has gone on record to say that Trump “said things that were hate-filled, vile, and racist. He used those words, and he used them repeatedly.”
While trying to distance himself from the #shitholes debate, Trump has slammed Democrats, saying they are “all talk” and “doing nothing to fix” DACA.