WASHINGTON – On June 20, during an address to a group of supporters in Tulsa, Okla., President Donald Trump used the term “kung flu” to refer to the 2019 novel coronavirus.
Leaders of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) issued the following statements on June 22:
Rep. Judy Chu (D-Pasadena), CAPAC chair: “President Trump’s deliberate choice to use the racial slur ‘kung flu’ for political gain is sickening and completely unacceptable. It builds xenophobic anger toward Asian Americans at a time when we are seeing an alarming uptick in anti-Asian bigotry, and it puts the lives of Asian Americans at risk.
“Unfortunately, these words have a dangerous impact far beyond a half-empty arena in Oklahoma. Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, over 2,200 anti-Asian hate crimes and hate incidents have been reported due to misinformation that Asian Americans are more likely to have the coronavirus or should be blamed for it. Even Asian American doctors and nurses working on the front lines of this pandemic have been attacked.
“These attacks have increased whenever the president and his Republican supporters have insisted on using terms like ‘Chinese virus,’ ‘China plague,’ or ‘Wuhan flu.’ But up until this weekend, even ‘kung flu’ was off-limits for this administration as White House advisor Kellyanne Conway said in March that it was ‘wrong and highly offensive.’
“It seems that has changed, however, now that the White House is looking to distract from their own flawed and delayed response to the coronavirus crisis that has left over 122,000 Americans dead and over 40 million unemployed. This choice to use a pandemic to stoke bigotry and drive a wedge into our country violates clear guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that trying to tie a virus to a particular ethnic group or region puts lives at risk by creating stigma and making the job of containing the virus harder.
“That is also why I was deeply saddened to see some of my congressional colleagues smiling and laughing in response to this horrific and deeply offensive comment. They, too, should know better than to cheer on xenophobia and bigotry. The American people need accurate information, not bigotry, distractions, and lies.
“Instead of inspiring racism in others in order to scapegoat and deflect blame from himself, President Trump should listen to his own public health experts and focus on how to stop the spread of this virus.”
Rep. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.), CAPAC first vice chair: “President Trump continues to fan the flames of bigotry and xenophobia toward Asian Americans by using racist language to describe a virus that is killing people regardless of their ethnicity, while the Republican leadership continues to remain silent on this issue. This is utterly shameful.
“To highlight this issue, I introduced a resolution condemning all anti-Asian sentiment related to COVID-19. I’m honored that nearly 150 of mine — including a brave, lone Republican — have co-sponsored it, and over 500 organizations across the nation have endorsed. I urge Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi to bring my resolution up for a vote.”
Rep. Mark Takano (D-Riverside), CAPAC second vice chair: “More than 120,000 Americans have died from COVID-19, millions of people are unemployed and suffering economic hardship, and COVID-19 cases are rising across the country – Trump knows that his response to this public health crisis has been a total failure, so he is resorting to what he knows best to rile up his base: racism.
“It was abhorrent to listen to Trump use racist terminology in reference to this virus at his poorly attended rally. The damage created by this president’s racist rhetoric will be long-lasting and, sadly, we are already seeing the harmful consequences of his hatred and xenophobia with the increase in hate crimes against Asian Americans. President Trump needs to stop targeting the Asian American community and start leading, for once.”
Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance), CAPAC whip: “The president takes pride in his bigotry. Otherwise, why would he repeat a racist, deeply offensive slur at his political rally? It is not the first time he has targeted Asians with hurtful rhetoric, and it likely won’t be the last.
“Trump has repeatedly stirred up animosity towards Asian Americans during this pandemic instead of working to protect lives from this virus. As a result, we’ve seen an increasing number of violent and racist acts committed against members of the AAPI community. Trump treats alienating and targeting groups of Americans as a sport. It has always been gross and unacceptable and this latest instance is no different.”