The myth of President Donald Trump inspiring harassment against Asian Americans just simply won’t die. Joe Biden attacked him for it during the 2020 election and his administration keeps repeating it after the horrific mass shooting in Atlanta this past week. Vice President Kamala Harris repeated this accusation in remarks on Friday and White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki made the claim explicitly on Wednesday.
“I think there’s no question that some of the damaging rhetoric that we saw during the prior administration, blaming, calling COVID ‘the Wuhan virus’ or other things led to perceptions of the Asian American community that are inaccurate, unfair, have raised threatening… has elevated threats against Asian Americans, and we’re seeing that around the country,” Psaki said.
Reporter: ‘Why does the president think attacks on Asian Americans are increasing?’
Jen Psaki: ‘The damaging rhetoric during the prior admin, calling COVID 'the Wuhan virus,' led to perceptions of the Asian American community that are inaccurate [and] unfair’ pic.twitter.com/6E1bpml3Tm
— NowThis (@nowthisnews) March 20, 2021
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Tragically, it does seem that some Americans have targeted Asian Americans for harassment during the COVID-19 pandemic. Because Americans of other races often cannot tell between Japanese Americans, Korean Americans, and Chinese Americans — all of whom have distinct and proud heritages — this harassment has been rather indiscriminate. Even if only Chinese Americans had faced this harassment, it would still be absurd to blame Americans of Chinese ancestry (some of whose ancestors have lived here for 200 years or more) for a pandemic that started in Wuhan, China, in 2019.
It is similarly absurd to accuse Trump of fomenting that harassment because the president referred to COVID-19 as “the Wuhan virus.” Trump made it clear that he stands with Asian Americans.
So why call it “the Wuhan virus” or “the China virus?” Trump wanted to expose the Chinese Communist Party. The virus originated originated in Wuhan, China, and spread thanks in part to the CPP’s lies and malfeasance.
From late February 2020 onward, Chinese sources began to share a conspiracy theory that COVID-19 was developed by the U.S. military and somehow planted in Wuhan. Chinese officials fueled this conspiracy theory in March. Trump responded by referring to the coronavirus as the “Chinese virus.” He was pushing back against Chinese Communist Party propaganda.
Naturally, the CCP accused him of “racism,” and left-leaning media outlets and Democrats were all too glad to take up the call. By the way, the very same left-leaning journalists who rushed to condemn Trump as racist had referred to COVID-19 as the “Wuhan coronavirus” or the “Chinese coronavirus” weeks earlier.
Back in March 2020 — months before Biden first accused Trump of inciting racist harassment — Trump made it absolutely clear that the spread of COVID-19 is not the fault of Asian Americans.
“It is very important that we totally protect our Asian American community in the United States, and all around the world,” he tweeted. “They are amazing people, and the spreading of the Virus is NOT their fault in any way, shape, or form. They are working closely with us to get rid of it. WE WILL PREVAIL TOGETHER!”
Trump did not just tweet his support for Asian Americans — he also pledged to protect them in a press conference. He acknowledged that “great American citizens that happen to be of Asian heritage” have faced harassment. “I’m not going to let that happen.”
Any American who chose to harass his or her Asian American neighbors was not listening to Donald Trump. Yet it seems the Biden administration wants to milk this narrative for political advantage, demonizing Biden’s predecessor and straining to link a heinous mass murder — which the FBI director said does not appear racially motivated — to a politically convenient narrative.
Americans should not be fooled.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.