Although President Donald Trump has come under fire for using what critics say amounts to a racist dog whistle in referring to the coronavirus as “the Chinese virus,” he has a defender in Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas), who when asked by a reporter whether the use of the term is acceptable, responded, “That’s where it came from.”
“Well, I think China is to blame because the culture where people eat bats, and snakes, and dogs, and things like that,” Cornyn continued. “These viruses are transmitted from the animal to the people and that’s why China has 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.”
You can watch footage of Cornyn’s remarks below.
Reporter: "Are you on board with the President calling this the China virus, Chinese virus. Does it seem like it's helpful right now to call it that?"
Sen. John Cornyn: "That's where it came from." pic.twitter.com/TkvQ5Z9p8y
— The Hill (@thehill) March 19, 2020
While the coronavirus and SARS pandemics did originate in China, Cornyn is wrong to attribute MERS and swine flu to the Chinese.
Cornyn’s statements earned him a stern rebuke from Representative Judy Chu (D-Calif.).
“Disparaging an entire ethnic group and culture like this is bigotry, plain and simple,” Chu said. “Blaming Chinese people en masse for the spread of this disease is the exact same bigoted line that was used to justify the Chinese Exclusion Act over a century ago.”
She went on to criticize the Republicans, who “have been warned by health experts, by Trump administration officials, by Asian American organizations and constituents. At this point, Republicans have made a calculation that it is in their best interest to use people of Chinese ethnicity as a scapegoat, and people’s lives will be in danger until they stop.”
President Trump again used the term “Chinese virus” to refer to the coronavirus during a White House briefing earlier today, pushing back against criticisms that the term is racially charged. These criticisms only intensified after he used the term in two separate tweets earlier this morning.
“It’s not racist at all,” he said. “It comes from China, that’s why.”
Alan is a writer, editor, and news junkie based in New York.