The Chinese American Civil Rights Coalition has sued former President Donald Trump for his attacks on China and his Asian slurs, accusing him of sparking a spike in violence against Asian Americans.
“Defendant’s extreme and outrageous conduct indeed has caused members of the Plaintiff organization, and to a large extent Asian Americans, emotional distress, and resulted in an unmistakable rising up trend of racial violence against Chinese Americans and Asian Americans from New York to California,” said the federal suit, filed Thursday in the Southern District of New York by the nonprofit civil rights group.
It seeks $1 for each American of Asian or Pacific Island heritage, which would amount to about $22.9 million in damages.
The suit by the New York nonprofit focuses on Trump’s relentless, and inaccurate, descriptions of COVID-19 as the “Chinese virus,” the “Wuhan virus” and the particularly racist “Kung Flu.” (Even Trump’s aide Kellyanne Conway called the “Kung Flu” term “highly offensive.”) Though the first known outbreak of COVID-19 was in China, the origin of the coronavirus has not been determined.
Trump’s pointed demonizing of China and the Chinese is widely regarded as fueling a disturbing surge in violent attacks on Asian Americans.
A study from the University of California, San Francisco, published last month, found that Trump calling COVID-19 the “Chinese virus” in a tweet in March 2020 led to a marked increase in the use of anti-Asian hashtags on the platform.
Last year, a photograph of Trump’s notes during a press briefing went viral after it showed the word “corona” in coronavirus crossed out and replaced with “Chinese.”
“The truth matters, words have consequences ... especially from those in powerful and influential positions,” the complaint against Trump states. “Against the well-published WHO [World Health Organization] guidelines and the repeated advices from health officials of his own administration, Defendant intentionally repeated those defamatory words to serve his own personal and political interest with an astonishing level of actual malice and negligence, hence severely injuring the Chinese/Asian Americans communities in the process.”
Racist violence against Asian Americans, often related to the COVID-19
pandemic, has surged over the last year. Hate crimes targeting Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders rose by 150% in major U.S. cities, according to one study. Stop AAPI Hate, a coalition of Asian American advocacy groups, recorded about 6,600 reports of racist violence against Asian Americans from March 2020 through March 2021.
Trump senior adviser Jason Miller mocked the lawsuit as “a joke” in a statement to The Hill. “This is an insane and idiotic lawsuit that is specious at best, and it will be dismissed if it ever sees a courtroom,” he added.