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White House Defends Trump's Use Of Racist Term To Describe Coronavirus

During a campaign rally over the weekend, President Trump used the term "kung flu" to describe the deadly coronavirus pandemic, to cheers from the audience.
Saul Loeb
AFP via Getty Images
During a campaign rally over the weekend, President Trump used the term "kung flu" to describe the deadly coronavirus pandemic, to cheers from the audience.

The White House on Monday denied any malicious intent behind President Trump's use of the racist term "kung flu" this weekend to describe the deadly coronavirus pandemic, saying that the president had no "regrets putting the onus back on China" for the deadly virus.

"It's not a discussion about Asian Americans, who the president values and prizes as citizens of this great country. It is an indictment of China for letting this virus get here," White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said at the Monday news briefing.

"The president does not believe it's offensive to note that this virus came from China."

Trump invoked the racist phrase at a Saturday campaign rally in Tulsa, Okla., where — to cheers from the audience — the president maligned the different terms used to describe the coronavirus and the disease, COVID-19, that it causes.

"By the way, it's a disease without question. [It] has more names than any disease in history. I can name — kung flu — I can name 19 different versions of names. Many call it a virus, which it is. Many call it a flu — what difference? I think we have 19 or 20 versions of the name," Trump told supporters at the sparsely attended rally.

In March, when questioned whether the phrase was being used among White House staffers, one of Trump's own advisers, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, rejected the term as "wrong" and "highly offensive."

"Why don't we go to the source and tell them that's very hurtful and unhelpful for what we're trying to do," Conway said, pointing to her husband's and children's Asian heritage.

Trump's racist description of the virus marks the most recent in a years-long history of offensive terminology aimed at racial minorities.

As president, Trump has previously referred to African nations as "s***hole countries," defended white supremacists and referred to immigrants from Mexico as "rapists" and criminals.

Still, the president has denied harboring any racist motives, describing himself last year as "the least racist person anywhere in the world."

Last week, social media posts by Trump's campaign were flagged and removed by Twitter and Facebook for using racist language and images.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Alana Wise is a politics reporter on the Washington desk at NPR.

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