GOP senator blames China for global pandemics in fact-free racist tirade

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Sen. John Cornyn used racist language to describe what he claimed were the origins of most widespread outbreaks.

Texas Sen. John Cornyn (R) made several racist and incorrect statements on Wednesday while speaking to reporters about the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak.

Cornyn was specifically responding to questions about the use of inflammatory names for the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Donald Trump and a number of his Republican allies have employed racist terminology to describe the virus, with Trump himself calling it the "Chinese Virus" repeatedly.

Experts have warned against naming viruses after geographic locations as doing so may incite discrimination and hate against corresponding communities and groups of people.

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From a March 18 interview with The Hill:

REPORTER: Are you on board with [the] president calling ... this the "Chinese Virus?"

 

SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R-TX): That's where it came from.

 

REPORTER: But is it helpful? It alienates people, it sort of sends [a tone] like there is someone to blame. That there is a group of people to blame.

 

CORNYN: Well I think China is to blame because the culture where people eat bats and snakes and dogs and things like that, these viruses are transmitted from the animal to the people and that's why China's been the source of a lot of these viruses like SARS, like MERS, the swine flu and now the coronavirus.

 

So I think they have a fundamental problem and I don't object to geographically identifying where it's coming from.

 

REPORTER: To Asian Americans, Asian Americans are feeling like it's a racist thing to do.

 

CORNYN: I disagree. I don't think – we're not talking about Asians, we're talking about China where these viruses emanate from and which have created this pandemic.

Cornyn was incorrect on Wednesday when he claimed "China has been the source of a lot of these viruses like SARS, like MERS, the Swine Flu."

The first confirmed case of MERS, another species of coronavirus, was reported in 2012 outside of China.

Swine Flu is caused by an influenza virus common among pig populations across the globe. The first reported cases in the infamous 2009 Swine Flu outbreak were also discovered outside of China, halfway across the globe in North America.

Additionally, Cornyn's claim that the current COVID-19 outbreak can be linked to Chinese eating habits is both flawed and discriminatory.

A viral video initially linked to the outbreak purported to show a young woman eating a cooked bat, suggesting that consumption of the animal was what started the pandemic.

The video was in fact several years old and published by a travel blogger who had visited Palau.

Tropes about "dirty" Asian eating habits are rooted in xenophobia and racism and have existed for years, going as far back as 19th century Europe, the Los Angeles Times noted earlier this year.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.