President Donald Trump ― who adamantly defended labeling the new coronavirus the “Chinese virus” last week ― is asking for protection for Asian Americans, saying they are not to be blamed for the pandemic.
During a press briefing Monday evening, the president said that the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, was not the fault of the Asian American community in “any way, shape, or form.”
In light of a spike in reports of violence and discrimination against Asian people in America and abroad, the president highlighted the importance of protecting the Asian American community in the U.S. and globally.
Asked what prompted the comments, Trump acknowledged the group could be facing prejudice.
“It seems that there could be a little bit of nasty language toward the Asian Americans in our country, and I don’t like that at all,” he said.
Just last week, the president had rejected criticism of his use of the term “Chinese virus,” which experts said created needless stigmatization and xenophobia against Asian communities. He made no mention of the term Monday.
Even after being confronted about the terminology last week, he repeated the label and was backed up by the White House twitter account, which defended the term as no different than previous infectious diseases that were named after their place of origin, such as West Nile virus or Ebola.
Officials, including Dr. Mike Ryan, the executive director of the World Health Organization’s emergency program, said the term should not be used. WHO had revised its naming conventions in 2015 to avoid names of places in order to minimize adverse and unnecessary effects on nations, economies and people.
Other experts, including John Yang, the president and executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAAJ), explained that the rhetoric exacerbated what had already been an increase in violence and hate faced by Asian people in relation to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Following Trump’s comments and tweets, many social media users noted the need for protection could have been mitigated by heeding the advice of experts and avoiding the use of racist language.
Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.) called on the president to stop using the term.
Yang, head of AAAJ, said that the messaging now was appreciated but highlighted the president’s continued defense of the label last week despite advice that it led to violence.
Others called on Trump to acknowledge the harm he caused.