US President Donald Trump has said that he is "not a racist" despite reports of his derogatory comments about immigrants from Haiti and Africa.
Mr Trump has faced heavy criticism since it was reported last week that he called Haiti and African nations "shithole countries" during a meeting in the Oval Office.
An organisation representing African countries has demanded that Mr Trump apologise, saying it was "shocked and outraged" and the Trump administration misunderstood Africans.
Asked by a reporter in Florida whether he was a racist following reports that he said immigrants from Haiti and Africa were from "shithole countries", Mr Trump said: "No. I'm not a racist. I'm the least racist person you have ever interviewed."
He added that he was "ready, willing and able" to reach a deal to protect immigrants brought to the United States as children, but he doubted democrats were eager to make a deal.
Earlier, Mr Trump said the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) - which protects illegal immigrants brought to the United States as children from being deported - would "probably" be discontinued.
Mr Trump has said he would end DACA, and his Twitter comments came as lawmakers worked on a bipartisan compromise on immigration policy.
Efforts to extend the program are further complicated because it could make a funding bill to avert a government shutdown due Friday more difficult.
"DACA is probably dead because the Democrats don't really want it, they just want to talk and take desperately needed money away from our military," Mr Trump said on Twitter. But he left a door open that a deal could be reached with Democrats in Congress.
A US judge ruled last Tuesday that DACA should remain in effect until legal challenges brought in multiple courts are resolved.
Mr Trump's remarks about 'shithole' countries were allegedly made when lawmakers visited him on Thursday to discuss a bipartisan proposal that would impose new restrictions on immigration but protect the so-called "Dreamers" - hundreds of thousands of immigrants brought to the US illegally as children - from deportation.
Mr Trump was said to have told them that instead of granting temporary residency to citizens of countries hit by natural disasters, war or epidemics, the US should instead be taking in migrants from countries like Norway.
"Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?" the Washington Post quoted him as saying.
Mr Durbin said that when Mr Trump was told that the largest groups of immigrants with Temporary Protected Status (TPS) were from El Salvador, Honduras and Haiti, the president responded: "Haitians? Do we need more Haitians?"
But in another tweet on Friday the president denied that he insulted Haitians.
- Reuters / BBC