President Donald Trump tweeted Monday that people should look out for “our Asian American community.”
In the tweet, the president advised Americans to protect those of Asian descent “in the United States, and all around the world.” He posted the message hours after he once again referred to COVID-19 as the “Chinese virus,” a term he’s used multiple times that some experts say has led to hateful attacks on those of Asian descent.
“They are amazing people, and the spreading of the Virus …is NOT their fault in any way, shape, or form,” he wrote on the platform. “They are working closely with us to get rid of it. WE WILL PREVAIL TOGETHER!”
Trump reiterated the point during a news conference.
Rep. Judy Chu, D-Calif., chairwoman of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, told NBC News that while she welcomes the support for the community, Trump’s comments would not “be necessary if he and his supporters had not already endangered so many by spreading this toxic xenophobia.”
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“For weeks, President Trump has been told by reporters, members of Congress, health experts and members of his own administration not to use the term ‘Chinese virus.’ And when confronted publicly, he rejected expert opinions and repeatedly doubled down on the term, defending it as appropriate and one he said Asian Americans would welcome. But he was wrong,” Chu said.
Trump has drawn significant backlash for repeatedly using the term “Chinese virus” in social media messaging and during news conferences, with experts and the public saying it perpetuates the racist association between the illness and those of Asian descent. He defended his use of the language by claiming that it was “accurate.”
The official White House Twitter account backed him up, citing previous names of illnesses like “West Nile virus” as justification. However, many officials warned against identifying the virus by location or ethnicity, including Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who agreed at a House hearing this month that it was “absolutely wrong and inappropriate” to use labels like “Chinese coronavirus,” as the illness had expanded beyond China.
Other experts and officials, including Chu’s caucus, say use of the term has already resulted in a slew of attacks related to misinformation around the virus. In New York City, a 23-year-old woman was alleged to have been punched and hospitalized after another woman attacked her while invoking anti-Asian slurs. In a separate incident in California, an Asian teen was sent to the emergency room after he was bullied and assaulted because of coronavirus fears.
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Given the harm that has been done to members of the Asian American community, many social media users — including CBS News White House correspondent Weijia Jiang, who tweeted that an official had referred to the virus as “Kung-Flu” to her face — criticized the president’s tweet. Some accused Trump of not owning up to his words. Others said his comments were too little, too late.
Chu, whose caucus had written a letter dissuading fellow members of Congress from engaging in any racism and xenophobia around the pandemic, said she had some advice to share with Trump.
“I encourage the president to listen to his own tweet and shift away from xenophobia and stop calling it the ‘Chinese virus,'” she said.