President Donald Trump seemed to go out of his way during a White House press conference on Wednesday to get a reporter to repeat the term “Kung Flu.”
Yamiche Alcindor, a “PBS NewsHour” White House correspondent and contributor for NBC News and MSNBC, informed Trump that “at least one White House official” had used the phrase to refer to the novel coronavirus. She demanded to know if he thought it was “wrong.”
“I wonder who said that,” Trump replied coyly. “Do you know who said that?”
“I’m not sure the person’s name,” Alcindor said.
“Say the term again,” the president demanded.
“A person at the White House used the term ‘Kung flu,’” Alcindor said.
“Kung flu?” Trump mused.
“Kung flu,” Alcindor said yet again. “Do you think the term is wrong? And do you think using the term ‘Chinese virus’ puts Asian Americans at risk, that people will target them?”
“No, not at all,” Trump said in response to her follow-up question, which he had previously addressed during the briefing. “I think they probably would agree with it 100 percent. It comes from China. There’s nothing not to agree [with].”
My Q: Are WH officials using term "Kong-Flu" to describe coronavirus wrong? And, are you concerned that term "Chinese virus" will put Asian-Americans at risk of being targeted?
Pres Trump: "Not at all. I think they probably would agree with it 100 percent."
Full video below. https://t.co/3VnTahx2BQ
— Yamiche Alcindor (@Yamiche) March 18, 2020
Why reporters are asking Donald Trump about “Kung Flu”
CBS reporter Weijia Jiang, a Chinese-American CBS reporter, caused a stir online when she tweeted Tuesday that an unnamed White House official had that morning “referred to #Coronavirus as the ‘Kung Flu’ to my face.”
“Makes me wonder what they’re calling it behind my back,” Jiang added.
As the coronavirus has spread around the world, killing nearly 9,000 people as of Wednesday afternoon, a debate has raged in the media over whether it’s acceptable to refer to COVID-19, the resulting respiratory disease, by its place of origin, Wuhan, China.
A number of prominent U.S. Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, have echoed China’s claims that names like the “Chinese virus” or “the Wuhan virus” are xenophobic or racist. The World Health Organization has also advised against against using such terms.
Trump first uttered the phrase “Chinese virus” in a series of Monday night tweets.
Geng Shuang, a spokesman for China’s foreign ministry, responded on Tuesday by expressing “strong anger” that Trump had “smeared” the country.
On Wednesday, Richard Engel, NBC News’ chief foreign correspondent, compared linguistically linking the coronavirus to China to the “scapegoating” of ethnic groups during pandemics in the Middle Ages.
“This is a virus that came from the territory of China but came from bats,” he said during an appearance on MSNBC. “This is a bat virus, not a China virus. It doesn’t speak Chinese. It doesn’t target Chinese people. It targets human beings who happen to touch their eyes, nose or mouth.”