Trump says Asians 'understand exactly' why he uses racist terms for coronavirus

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Donald Trump said in March he'd stop using the offensive term 'Chinese virus.' He hasn't.

Donald Trump on Thursday defended his repeated use of a racist term to refer to the coronavirus, baselessly suggesting that Asian Americans are fine with it.

Radio host Geraldo Rivera, interviewing Trump on his "Geraldo in Cleveland" program, asked Trump about his repeated use of the phrase "China virus." Rivera said he had "some Asian friends" who object to the "racial overtone" of the term.

Trump quickly dismissed the premise of the question.

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"No, I tell you, I do too have great Asian support. And they understand exactly what it is that we're doing and saying. And they understand how China has hurt our country, you know, very much."

In the early days of the pandemic, Trump began using the term "Chinese virus" — even when it was not included in his prepared remarks.

In an interview in March, Trump said he would stop the practice. "I don't regret it, but they accused us of having done it through our soldiers, they said our soldiers did it on purpose, what kind of a thing is that?" he told Fox News. "Look, everyone knows it came out of China, but I decided we shouldn't make any more of a big deal out of it. I think I made a big deal. I think people understand it."

By late May, he had started using the term again, and he hasn't stopped since. At a campaign rally in June, he also used the term "kung-flu" to describe the virus — which even White House counselor Kellyanne Conway had been pushed to call "very hurtful" and "highly offensive."

Public health experts have warned against naming viruses after geographic locations, with the World Health Organization urging the use of names based on the effects of the viruses themselves "to follow best practices in naming new human infectious diseases to minimize unnecessary negative effects on nations, economies and people."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said that "stigma and discrimination can occur when people associate a disease, such as COVID-19, with a population or nationality, even though not everyone in that population or from that region is specifically at risk for the disease."

Asian and Asian American people have experienced a rise in hate crimes since the start of the pandemic.

John C. Yang, executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice, told NBC News this week that politicians using terms like "China virus" have stoked "misinformation and fear."

"Our community is struggling to cope with COVID-19 xenophobic attacks while also being one of the communities most affected by it," he said.

Polls show that Trump is wrong about his level of support among Asian Americans. A recent Navigator poll found 66% of Asian Americans who are registered to vote disapprove of his handling of the pandemic, compared to just 32% who approve. More than three-quarters of those surveyed said Trump's "words and actions" have put people's lives at risk.

The vast majority of Americans disagree with Trump's racist language choices as well.

According to a Hill-HarrisX poll released in mid-July, 66% of registered voters say it is inappropriate to use terms like "China virus" and "kung-flu."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.