President Donald Trump apparently finds no issue with resorting to racist fearmongering in the midst of a global pandemic. In defiance of admonishments from the World Health Organization, he has repeatedly referred to the Coronavirus as the “Chinese virus,” and at a press conference this Wednesday, he insisted that the moniker was “not racist,” although there’s no tangible reason to refer to the Coronavirus as the “Chinese virus” other than racist antagonism. There’s nothing inherently Chinese about the virus, which has now been found in and spread among the majority of the world’s countries.
Moments after @realDonaldTrump defended his use of the term “Chinese Virus” the @WHO reminded the world to not use that term, saying previous illness was never called “The North American Flu”.#wcvb pic.twitter.com/BqVi6bCrAt
— Shaun Chaiyabhat (@ShaunWCVB) March 18, 2020
ABC reporter Cecilia Vega directly confronted Trump with the conclusions from many observers that the completely unnecessary, punitive reference to the Coronavirus as the “Chinese virus” is racist. She asked:
‘Why do you keep calling this the Chinese virus? There are reports of dozens of incidents of bias against Chinese Americans in this country. Your own aide, Secretary Azar, says that he does not use this term, he says that ethnicity does not cause the virus — why do you keep using this? A lot of people say it’s racist.’
Trump was unfazed — although he eventually offered a sort of backhanded admission that he was using the phrase with political point-scoring in mind. He commented:
‘Because it comes from China. It’s not racist at all, not at all. It comes from China. That’s why. It comes from China. I want to be accurate… 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 gonna happen. Not as long as I’m president. It comes from China.’
So — Trump is basing his public behavior surrounding a global pandemic on his feelings about an appropriate response to supposed conspiracy theories from the Chinese Communist Party. Even in a time of national public health crisis, Trump apparently won’t let even a hint of an insult go unanswered.
After Trump’s own dismissal of Vega’s question, she called one out to the aides standing around beside and behind him, but she did not get an answer. Many are likely perfectly fine with Trump’s behavior; one reporter revealed just this week that a White House official (who she did not name) had referred to the Coronavirus as “Kung-Flu” to her face.
ABC's Cecilia Vega asks Trump about his use of the term 'Chinese virus'. She then asks: "No concerns about Chinese Americans in this country? To the aides behind you, are you comfortable with this term?" The latter question goes unanswered.
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) March 18, 2020
Former Office of Government Ethics chief Walter Shaub commented:
‘There is nothing to be gained at this point from focusing on China. The virus is here. It’s now as American as the air you breathe. And calling it the “Chinese virus” fuels racism, as Americans bearing the brunt of this racism can attest. Trump’s dog whistling is intentional.’
There is nothing to be gained at this point from focusing on China. The virus is here. It's now as American as the air you breathe. And calling it the "Chinese virus" fuels racism, as Americans bearing the brunt of this racism can attest. Trump's dog whistling is intentional. https://t.co/KWe2dKOADL
— Walter Shaub (@waltshaub) March 18, 2020
And all of this is unfolding while there are real, tangible issues that the president could be focusing on addressing, although, in the midst of dramatic economic upheaval from the attempt to stem the spread of the virus, some substantive proposals did roll out this Wednesday. Besides the announcement that foreclosures and evictions would apparently be suspended until the end of April, the Trump administration is asking Congress for a stunning $1 trillion bailout package, including money for hard-hit industries and affected individual Americans.
We already gave a bailout for corporations and big money executives. It was an unnecessary tax cut that confirmed the fears of its critics. Any bailout now must help working (and no longer working) people first and foremost.
— Dan Rather (@DanRather) March 18, 2020