President Donald Trump once again used the term “kung flu” to refer to COVID-19 at a reelection rally at a church in Phoenix on Tuesday.
Trump first used the phrase at his Saturday rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma —the first rally to take place since the coronavirus lockdown began. On Tuesday, Trump spoke at the Students for Trump Convention in the Dream City Church in Phoenix, Arizona. There, he launched into a rant on the “many names” of COVID-19.
“I said the other night, there’s never been anything where they have so many names,” Trump said, referencing his speech in Tulsa. “I could give you 19 or 20 names for that, right? It’s got all different names. Wuhan...was catching on. Coronavirus.”
Members of the crowd started yelling out “kung flu,” and Trump ran with it.
“Kung flu,” Trump said, going on to repeating the phrase twice. “COVID-19... I said what’s the 19... Some people can’t explain what the 19 [is]... I said, that’s an odd name. I could give you many, many names. Some people call it the Chinese Flu, the China flu...the China. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
A sea of cheers erupted as Trump said “kung flu,” and footage of the event posted on social media shows members of the audience rising from their seats for standing ovations.
Trump’s confusion over the “19” in COVID-19 ― which refers to the identification of the disease in 2019 ― drew swift mockery on social media. Other commentators ― particularly members of the Asian American community ranging from CBS White House correspondent Weijia Jiang to former presidential candidate Andrew Yang ― zeroed in on his continual usage of “kung flu.” The term has drawn flak from even White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, who initially called the term “highly offensive” before backing away from outright criticism of Trump in recent press conferences.
The term “kung flu” has gained notoriety after Trump’s usage, though it existed prior to the president saying it at his latest rallies. In March, Donald Trump Jr. captioned an Instagram video showing America knocking out China at a martial arts tournament with the words “the Kung-Flu Kid,” attributing the video to American AF, a company that sells America-themed clothing. An online search conducted by Media Matters revealed that the company is selling T-shirts with the words “Kung-Flu Kid” on them.
Asian Americans have condemned both the term and Trump’s insistence on using it. Andy Kang, executive director of the nonprofit organization Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Chicago, told NBC News that the president’s rhetoric would only “incite xenophobic scapegoating and violence.”