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A pastor lights into President Trump - with Vice President Pence sitting in the front pew

Vice President Mike Pence after the weekly Republican Senate luncheon on Capitol Hill in Washington, Jan. 4, 2018. (Tom Brenner/The New York Times Copyright 2018 / New York Times)

Like many people, the Rev. Maurice Watson issued a stern and very public rebuke of President Donald Trump's Oval Office comments about immigrants from "shithole countries."

But Watson's reprimand had something none of the other critics had: Vice President Mike Pence sitting just a feet away as he slammed Pence's boss.

"I stand today as your pastor to vehemently denounce and reject any such characterizations of the nations of Africa and of our brothers and sisters in Haiti," said Watson, pastor of Metropolitan Baptist Church in Largo, Maryland. "Whoever made such a statement and whoever used such a visceral, disrespectful, dehumanizing statement to characterize the nations of Africa - do you hear me, church? - whoever said it is wrong, and they ought to be held accountable."

Watson's Sunday sermon came three days after Trump asked "why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?" during a tense Oval Office meeting about immigration. As The Washington Post first reported, Trump made the profane comment while discussing immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and African nations.

Washington CBS affiliate WUSA said the vice president became red-faced in the pew during Watson's sermon, although Pence's office denied that assertion in an email to the Associated Press.

The vice president's spokeswoman did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

On the same day of Watson's sermon, Trump denied having made the "shithole countries" remark.

"No, I'm not a racist," he told reporters at his Trump International Golf Club in Florida. "I'm the least racist person you have ever interviewed."

As The Post's Michelle Boorstein reported, countless pastors "used their Sunday pulpits to speak out against President Trump's reported vulgarity about less affluent nations. Citing everything from scripture and Martin Luther King Jr. to the Gettysburg Address, clergy representing a wide range of Christianity - even people who usually don't touch political topics - in references long and brief said church was the proper place to address Trump's words:

"In more traditional services, Trump references were veiled - if biting. Progressive congregations were blunt."

Metropolitan Baptist Church was formed in 1864, a year after Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. Watson said his congregation includes people from Haiti and African nations.

He said those people deserve an apology but "probably are not going to get one."

Author information: Cleve Wootson is a general assignment reporter for The Washington Post.

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