Donald Trump supporters whooped and cheered as the president referred to coronavirus as the ‘Kung Flu.’ Trump used the term – which has widely been condemned as racist – at an event called his Address to Young Americans in Phoenix, Arizona, on Tuesday.
Speaking to the crowd at the Dream City Church, Trump said: ‘(Coronavirus) has so many names. I could give you 19 or 20 names for that right. It’s got all different names. Wuhan – Wuhan was catching on. Coronavirus, right?’ Pausing for effect, Trump then said: ‘Kung flu’ and repeated the phrase moments later to rapturous cheers from the crowd.
He continued: ‘Covid, Covid-19, Covid. I say, “What’s the 19? Covid-19. Some people can’t explain what the 19….I said “That’s an odd name.”‘
Covid-19 – which stands for coronavirus disease 2019 – a reference to the year the virus first emerged – is the official name for the new coronavirus that has swept the world, infecting close to 2.4million Americans and killing over 122,000.
The virus was first spotted in the Chinese city of Wuhan late last year, with Trump initially downplaying its severity, before referring to it as ‘the Chinese virus’ in early press briefings.
His use of the term coincided with a rise in racist attacks on Asian-American people. Trump initially doubled-down on his use of the term, insisting he had used it because it was ‘accurate.’ But he later switched to referring to the disease as ‘coronavirus’ or Covid-19. Trump used ‘Kung flu’ at a campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Saturday – with his press secretary Kayleigh McEnany deflecting questions about the racist remark at a White House press conference on Monday.
Shortly after correcting his terminology, the president sent a tweet in support of the Asian-American community, writing: ‘It is very important that we totally protect our Asian American community in the United States, and all around the world. 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 held the crowded rally in Arizona despite the state experiencing a spike in coronavirus cases and deaths, with close to 57,000 infections and 1,400 deaths. The state saw over 6,300 new diagnoses on June 20 – a record-high – with diagnoses numbers sitting well over 2,300 in the two days since.
Political pundits predict that the president will seek to cast the Chinese government as a villain and rival as he moves to win voters ahead of November’s presidential election. Trump has been accused of using China to deflect from his own mishandling of the pandemic, which saw him dismiss its serious throughout the whole of February.
Experts say that time could have been used to warn Americans about the dangers of coronavirus, and stop its spread. Trump also sparked condemnation and ridicule after suggesting infections of disinfectant as a possible coronavirus treatment.
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