Donald Trump’s press secretary has defended and dodged around the issue of the US president labeling the Covid-19 virus the “Kung flu” at his underattended rally over the weekend.
The reference was actually one of the few that Trump made to the coronavirus pandemic — which has killed more than 122,000 Americans — during his 1 hour, 40 minute long speech in Tulsa, Oklahoma on Saturday.
“Oh, it’s COVID. It’s this again. By the way, it’s a disease without question, has more names than any disease in history,” Trump said. “I can name, ‘Kung flu.’ I can name, 19 different versions of names. Many call it a virus, which it is. Many call it a flu, what difference? I think we have 19 or 20 versions of the name.”
Trump calls the coronavirus “Kung flu” and then says, “many call it a flu.” (Nobody with a working brain says that.) pic.twitter.com/2Wlmv7L4na
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) June 21, 2020
At a press conference on Monday, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany was asked by a reporter why the president would use such a racist term.
Here’s the defense she came up with:
REPORTER:Last July, President Trump declared himself the least racist person there is anywhere in the world. Why has he use racist phrases like the kung flu?
KAYLEIGH MCENANY:The president doesn’t. What the president does do is point to the fact that the origin of the virus is China. It’s a fair thing to point out as China tries to ridiculously rewrite history, ridiculously blame the coronavirus on American soldiers. This is what China’s trying to do. And what President Trump is saying, no, China. I will label this virus for its place of word.
REPORTER:That’s what he’s saying by using the racist phrase kung flu?
KAYLEIGH MCENANY:He is linking it to its place of origin.
REPORTER:What does he have to say to Asian Americans who are deeply offended and worry that his use will lead to further attacks and discrimination?
KAYLEIGH MCENANY:So the president has said very clearly it’s important that we totally protect our Asian community in the US and all around the world. They’re amazing people, and the spreading of the virus is not their fault in any way, shape, or form. They’re working closely with us to get rid of it. We will prevail together. It’s very important.
So it’s not a discussion about Asian Americans who the president values and [INAUDIBLE] as citizens of this great country. It is an indictment of China for letting this virus get here.
And I would also point out that the media blames President Trump for using the terms China virus and Wuhan virus when they themselves have used these very terms. The “New York Times” called it the Chinese coronavirus; Reuters, the Chinese virus; CNN, the Chinese coronavirus on January 20; Washington Post, January 21, Chinese coronavirus. And I have more than a dozen other examples.
REPORTER:This is a different category, Kayleigh. Kung flu is extremely offensive to many people in the Asian American community. To be clear, are you saying the White House does not believe it is racist?
KAYLEIGH MCENANY:To be clear, I think the media is trying to play games with the terminology of this virus where the focus should be on the fact that China let this out of their country. The same phrase that the media roundly now condemns has been used by the media. I can go more examples. Wuhan virus CNN said on January 22. I mean, we can go on and on and on. So while the media wants to focus on nomenclature, the president’s going to focus on action. Yes?
Kayleigh McEnany denies that Trump’s racist “Kung Flu” remark is racist pic.twitter.com/umEzIWdTYE
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) June 22, 2020
The media has certainly not used the term “Kung flu” to describe the virus except to report on what Trump administration officials have been calling it.
Back in March, CBS News White House correspondent Weijia Jiang tweeted:“This morning a White House official referred to#Coronavirusas the “Kung-Flu” to my face. Makes me wonder what they’re calling it behind my back.”
In an interview afterward, White House aide Kellyanne Conway feigned anger while accusing Jiang of making an unfounded accusation, calling on her to name names before confirming that she finds the term “Kung flu” to be “very offensive.”
"I'm married to an Asian" — Kellyanne Conway downplays White House official reportedly calling coronavirus "Kung-Flu" and Trump using the term "Chinese Virus" pic.twitter.com/aI9TubIfGz
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) March 18, 2020
This is the first time that Trump himself has used “Kung flu” in public. He has frequently called the coronavirus, the “Chinese Virus” or the “China Virus” labeling such terms “very accurate.”
The labeling of viruses by location or ethnicity is condemned by most health experts around the globe for stigmatizing groups of people, leading only to racist associations and attacks.
Trump’s own CDC director has similarly rejected the practice, calling it “absolutely wrong and inappropriate” to use labels like “Chinese coronavirus.”