An enterprising Washington Post photographer captured a startling image of President Donald Trump’s altered news conference script Thursday showing what appeared to be his own handwritten change from “corona” to “Chinese” to form “Chinese virus.”
It appeared he used his favorite reality-altering tool: a black Sharpie.
Photographer Jabin Botsford posted the close-up on Twitter amid raging criticism of Trump over his repeated insistence this week on incorrectly calling coronavirus the “Chinese virus.” Critics have slammed the implied racism of his tactic, which they say is aimed at blaming a nation and a race of people for the pandemic to distract the American public from the dangerous failings of his own administration to battle the virus.
Trump on Wednesday dismissed the idea that the term “Chinese virus” was in any way racist. “It comes from China,” he said. “It’s not racist at all. I want to be accurate.”
It’s not accurate. Trump’s own top health advisers, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield have said it is inappropriate and inaccurate to label the novel coronavirus as the “Chinese virus.”
The correct term is coronavirus (officially SARS-CoV-2), which causes the disease COVID-19. Those are the terms international scientists, the World Health Organization, U.S. health officials, physicians and much of the general public use.
A report by Human Rights Watch on Thursday linked Trump’s use of his term Chinese virus to the fueling of “anti-Chinese sentiment” as anti-Asian hate crimes soar in the U.S.
Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), in an opinion article in The Washington Post on Wednesday, slammed Trump for “stoking xenophobic panic in a time of crisis” and shrugging off blame instead of doing his job to help Americans survive the pandemic.
Trump complained on Thursday that China “could have given us a lot earlier notice” about the spread of the disease there, which began in early December. Chinese officials informed the World Health Organization on Dec. 31. It wasn’t until this week that Trump first pledged to ramp up testing in the U.S., which remains far behind other nations and the current demand.
Trump actually thanked the Chinese in January for their efforts against the illness and for their “transparency.”
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