President Donald Trump drew worldwide criticism from politicians and celebrities after referring to the coronavirus, or COVID-19, as “the Chinese Virus” in a Tweet this week.
After giving a speech in which he addressed the need to social distance and the possibility of a recession, he later Tweeted support for corporations and other industries that may be affected by the resulting trade bans, quarantines, and workplace shutdowns.
“The United States will be powerfully supporting those industries, like Airlines and others, that are particularly affected by the Chinese Virus,” his Tweet read. “We will be stronger than ever before!”
The Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus addressed the incident in an open letter today, saying, “Republicans, from President Trump on down, have insisted on creating and using alternatives such as the ‘Chinese’ or ‘Wuhan’ virus. This is dangerous and they know it.”
They criticized Republicans for not using the term like the CDC and the World Health Organization advised, adding, “Republicans are rejecting that expert guidance in order to stoke xenophobia and blame all people of Chinese ethnicity for a public health crisis that knows no boundaries. But by telling people who to blame, they are telling people who to fear and who to hate.”
The letter was released by Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) Chairwoman Judy Chu, Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) Chairman Joaquin Castro, Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) Chairwoman Karen Bass, and Congressional Native American Caucus Co-Chair Deb Haaland. Last week, the leaders of the caucuses had previously asked two Republican lawkmakers and others to stop using the term “Chinese coronavirus.”
Star Trek veteran George Takei also took Trump to task, asking Twitter users to report the President’s Tweet.
“Trump is stoking racism,” he wrote. “Jack Dorsey may not do anything, but people should let Twitter know it’s not acceptable.”
A frequent critic of the Trump administration on matters such as family separation and LGBTQ rights, Takei mocked the government’s response to the coronavirus, later Tweeting, “BREAKING: Due to massive incompetence and inexplicable delay, WHO to rename Covid-19 to Covfefe-45,” a remark alluding to when Trump misspelled “coverage” (in reference to press coverage) in a Tweet that went viral in 2017.
The President also received criticism from officials such as New York Mayor Bill de Blasio.
“Our Asian-American communities — people YOU serve — are already suffering,” he wrote, after criticizing the lack of widely-available testing kits. “They don’t need you fueling more bigotry.”
U.S. officials were not alone in their rebukes. China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang also referenced Trump’s Tweet today in a briefing, saying that it “smears China” and that the U.S. “should first take care of its own matters,” according to a Reuters report.
However, when asked about his Tweet, Trump pushed back during a Tuesday press briefing.
“China was putting out information, which was false, that our military gave this to them,” he said according to The Hill. “And rather than having an argument, I said I have to call it where it came from. It did come from China, so I think it’s a very accurate term.”
Trump had referred to the coronavirus as “a foreign virus” and spent weeks downplaying it. He has previously retweeted statements calling the virus “the Chinese virus,” despite CDC Director Robert Redfield saying at a House hearing that it was “absolutely wrong and inappropriate” to use such labels, according to NBC News.
During a press conference, the President refused to take responsibility for the delay in testing kits, choosing to say his predecessor, then-President Barack Obama, had a poor showing at combating the swine flu.
The day before his statement, Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, had told lawmakers at a House Oversight Committee that “the system is not really geared to what we need right now,” calling it “a failing.”
There are around 3,500 confirmed cases since Monday night, the CDC reported.
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