President Donald Trump again referred to the coronavirus as the “Kung flu” before a packed campaign rally at an Arizona megachurch as fans cheered, drawing criticisms as some feel the term does more harm than good amid a rise in harassment and hate crimes against Asian Americans during the pandemic.
“There has never been anything where there has been so many names,” Trump said of COVID-19 pandemic on Tuesday night before a packed crowd gathered at Dream City Church in Phoenix, Arizona.
Trump was speaking at a "Students for Trump" rally organized by the conservative advocacy group Turning Point Action.
“I can give you 19 or 20 names for [the virus],” Trump said. “It’s got all the different names.”
As the president was listing different names, such as “Wuhan Virus” or the “Chinese Virus,” someone in the crowd shouted, “Kung flu!”
When the president used the term himself, the crowd of young people at the church erupted with applause.
“Some people call it the ‘Chinese flu,’ the ‘China flu,’ right?” Trump said. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”
For months, Trump has been criticized in the media for using certain names for the virus, such as the “Wuhan virus” or the “Chinese virus,” with some commentators calling such remarks “racist.” Trump has defended the use of such terms as he has tried to drive home the point that the virus originated in Wuhan, China.
The Trump administration and other world leaders have criticized China’s transparency and during the pandemic and accused the World Health Organization of covering up for China’s mismanagement.
Since the spread of the virus worldwide, China's Communist Party has been actively campaigning state and national lawmakers to heap praise on the regime instead of condemning it. Sen. Roger Roth, Wisconsin Senate Speaker, said the CCP reached out to him twice to urge him to pass a resolution praising China for its "handling of the coronavirus." Roth said the CCP even sent him a written resolution to use in the state Senate, according to an Epoch Times investigative report.
Members of the administration had previously expressed outrage over an allegation that a White House official used the term “Kung flu.” In March, White House adviser KellyAnne Conway considered “Kung flu” to be “highly offensive.”
But in recent days, Trump has more than once used the term “Kung flu,” a play on words with the form of Chinese martial arts called Kung Fu and the animated film "Kung Fu Panda." He used the term in his campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, over the weekend and again on Tuesday night before the crowd at the evangelical megachurch.
Conway spoke with reporters Wednesday and tried to defend Trump’s comments at the Tuesday night rally by stressing that the “president has made very clear he wants everybody to understand ... that the virus originated in China.”
“And had China been more transparent and honest with the United States and the world, we wouldn't have all the death and destruction that unfortunately, we've suffered,” Conway stressed.
She added that polls suggest that the number of Americans who view China as an adversary has nearly tripled.
“That’s obviously owing to this global pandemic that we’re suffering,” Conway said. “China does not deny responsibility and we’ll continue to look at that.”
Ron Sider, the founder of Evangelicals for Social Action who has published over 40 books, including The Spiritual Danger of Donald Trump, released this month, told The Christian Post that an investigation into the virus’s origination in China is necessary.
Sider said several contributors in the new book, which features essays from 30 evangelical Christians, “lament and condemn President Trump's frequent stoking of racist sentiment.”
“Honest insistence on careful scientific research into how COVID-19 emerged in Wuhan, China, is important and valid,” Sider said. “But racist labeling of COVID-19 is unchristian and will probably encourage more racist attacks on Asian Americans.”
“Tragically, Trump's use of the derogatory term fits with his continuing divisive actions and failure to unite the country as it grieves George Floyd's murder and demands that racism against American minorities end now,” Sider added.
In her remarks to the press, Conway stressed that the president is only trying to say that “China is responsible.”
“While the president is saying it, he is also saying, ‘This virus came from China,’” she said.
In May, Human Rights Watch reported that the COVID-19 pandemic has fueled anti-Asian racism worldwide.
According to the international human rights monitoring group, government leaders and senior officials have in some instances “directly or indirectly encouraged” hate crimes, racism and xenophobia be using “anti-Chinese rhetoric.”
HRW accused several political parties and groups in the U.S., U.K., Italy, Spain, Greece, France and Germany of latching onto the Covid-19 crisis to advance rhetoric that demonizes refugees and foreigners.
“Racism and physical attacks on Asians and people of Asian descent have spread with the Covid-19 pandemic, and government leaders need to act decisively to address the trend,” Human Rights Watch Asia Advocacy Director John Sifton said in a statement.
“Governments should act to expand public outreach, promote tolerance, and counter hate speech while aggressively investigating and prosecuting hate crimes.”
Earlier this year, the media lashed out at Trump for referring to the virus as the Chinese virus, China virus or Wuhan virus.
Yet several lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle and news reporters have also referred to the virus by the location it derived from, using terms such as the “Wuhan virus,” “Chinese coronavirus” and “foreign virus.”
CNN referred to the coronavirus as the Wuhan virus and China virus in January, and The Wall Street Journal referred to coronavirus as the Wuhan virus around the same time. Similarly, NPR has described it as the Wuhan coronavirus in its news reports.
Additionally, several Asia-based news organizations previously referred to the virus by a similar name, “Wuhan pneumonia.”
There are many pandemics, viruses and diseases that are identified by the name of a specific location. Some of these include Lyme disease, named after Lyme, Connecticut; the Spanish flu, which killed 50 million people worldwide in 1918; Ebola, named after the Ebola River in Zaire; Omsk fever, named after its discovery in Omsk, Russia; the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome; and German measles (rubella virus), which infects around 100,000 people worldwide every year, just to name a few.