WASHINGTON — President Trump on Wednesday defended himself from allegations of racism and xenophobia that were leveled in response to his calling the coronavirus the “Chinese virus,” National Review reports.
Trump has used the term “Chinese virus” in his tweets and was asked about it by ABC reporter Cecilia Vega, who referenced “dozens of incidents of bias against Chinese Americans” related to the pandemic.
“Because it comes from China,” Trump stated, adding that “it’s not racist at all, no, not at all.”
“It comes from China. I want to be accurate,” Trump said. “I have great love for all of the people from our country, but as you know, China tried to say at one point — maybe they stopped now — that it was caused by American soldiers. That can’t happen, it’s not going to happen, not as long as I’m president.”
Trump said he did not believe Asian Americans would be negatively affected by the use of the phrase, “No, not at all. I think they’d probably would agree with it 100 percent. It comes from China. There’s nothing not to agree on.”
The administration officials behind the lectern remained silent, but Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Robert Redfield said on March 10 that it was wrong to refer to the novel coronavirus as a “Chinese coronavirus,” breaking with a slew of GOP lawmakers who have attached that label, or “Wuhan virus,” to the deadly disease.
Redfield made the comments during a congressional hearing after being asked by Rep. Lois Frankel (D-Fla.) about the use of the term.
In a tweet after the press conference, the White House took aim at the media: “Spanish flu. West Nile virus. Zika. Ebola. All named for places. Before the media’s fake outrage, even CNN called it ‘Chinese coronavirus.’
“Those trying to divide us must stop rooting for America to fail and give Americans real info they need to get through the crisis.”
CBS News reporter Weijia Jiang tweeted on Tuesday, “This morning a White House official referred to coronavirus as the ‘Kung-Flu’ to my face. Makes me wonder what they’re calling it behind my back.”
During Wednesday’s briefing, PBS White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor brought up that tweet, according to Fox News.
Trump asked Alcindor to repeat the phrase “Kung-Flu” and asked which White House official had used the term. Alcindor said she did not know.
Earlier in the day, White House advisor Kellyanne Conway acknowledged that using the term was wrong but refused to engage in a “hypothetical” and demanded that Jiang reveal who the White House official was.
“I think you understand how these conversations go,” Jiang said, to which Conway replied, “No, I don’t know how these conversations go and that is highly offensive, so you should tell us all who it is.”
The Asian Americans Advancing Justice affiliation issued the following joint statement on Monday: “Tonight, President Donald Trump called COVID-19 the ‘Chinese coronavirus’ in a tweet. Words matter. Deliberate use of names for COVID-19 like ‘Chinese virus’ or ‘Chinese coronavirus’ is racist and irresponsible — it only spreads stigma and fear, and increases the violent xenophobic attacks on the Asian American community.”
The affiliation consists of Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus (San Francisco), Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Atlanta, Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Chicago, and Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Los Angeles.
On Feb. 26, members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC), led by Rep. Judy Chu (D-Pasadena), sent a letter to other members of Congress stating, “The dissemination of false information about COVID-19 is dangerous for public health and for American citizens who are increasingly becoming the victims of racist and xenophobic attacks.”
On March 10, CAPAC was joined by leaders of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Congressional Black Caucus, Congressional Native American Caucus, and Congressional Progressive Caucus in calling on House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) and Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) to apologize for calling COVID-19 the “Chinese coronavirus,” or the “Wuhan virus,” and again urged all members of Congress to avoid stoking xenophobia that puts people at risk.
There have been reports across the country of Asians, including schoolchildren, being verbally or even physically attacked by people who blamed them for the virus.