Members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) are calling on House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Rep. Paul Gosar to apologize for referring to COVID-19 as “the Chinese coronavirus.”
“Calling the 2019 novel coronavirus the ‘Chinese’ or ‘Wuhan’ coronavirus is as descriptive as calling it the ‘CPAC coronavirus’ – that is to say not descriptive at all. Worse, it’s harmful,” Chu said in a statement.
“The coronavirus has spread to over 100 countries, including the United States, and, as HHS Secretary Alex Azar testified to me, has nothing to do with ethnicity,” Chu continued in his statement. “Insisting on identifying the virus by region, as Leader McCarthy and Rep. Gosar have done, only creates fear and hostility.”
On Monday evening, GOP House Leader McCarthy (R-Calif.) had Tweeted a link from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Monday, adding, “Everything you need to know about the Chinese coronavirus can be found on one, regularly-updated website.”
Earlier, Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) had referred to the epidemic as “he Wuhan virus” after announcing his self-quarantine after his exposure with an individual who tested positive for the illness at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), according to The Hill.
Activists and lawmakers, including Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), condemned his choice of words.
“The virus is not constrained by country or race,” Lieu Tweeted in response. “Be as stupid to call it the Milan virus.”
Gosar defended his use of the term, calling the criticism “ignorant” and repeating “Wuhan Virus” three times in a Tweet, after MSNBC’s Chris Hayes called his use of the term “astoundingly gross.”
Conservatives came to Gosar’s defense, saying diseases have been named after the place they’ve originated from, including the Zika Virus and Lyme disease. Several news outlets, including CNN, have also used the term “Wuhan virus” in the beginning weeks of when the outbreak was first reported.
But members of CAPAC objected to people continuing to do so.
“Let’s be absolutely clear: this virus is neither the ‘Chinese coronavirus’ nor the ‘Wuhan virus,’ as yet another Republican Member called it,” Meng said in a statement on Tuesday, according to The Hill. “It is the coronavirus – or COVID-19, plain and simple. Wrongly inserting ‘Chinese’ into the name of this disease only reinforces the disparaging and negative stereotypes of Asian Americans.”
Meng referred to other officials who have used the term to describe COVID-19, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.).
A spokesman representing China for the foreign ministry delivered a scathing response, The Guardian reports.
“Despite the fact that the WHO has officially named this novel type of coronavirus, certain American politician[s], disrespecting science and the WHO decision, jumped at the first chance to stigmatize China and Wuhan with it. We condemn this despicable practice,” said spokesperson Geng Shuang in a statement.
Other leaders, including those of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC), Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), Congressional Native American Caucus, and Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC), also condemned the term. Members of the Asian American Journalists Associations (AAJA) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have asked news outlets and others to stop using the term, saying it “fuel[s] stigmatization attitudes.”
COVID-19, or coronavirus, originated in Wuhan, China, and has spread internationally, including around 800 cases in the U.S. A San Francisco State University report has tracked a correlation of case reports and xenophobic responses, including bans and physical attacks.
McCarthy has not released a statement or addressed the controversy as of Tuesday afternoon.
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