In the middle of the coronavirus outbreak, racism is running rampant — from pictures of Asian people used to represent infected areas, to labelling the virus' origin in Wuhan, China, representation of the actual pandemic is becoming more and more staggering. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi addressed the issue head on Wednesday when she tweeted, “Bigoted statements which spread misinformation and blame Asians and the Asian American community for #coronavirus make us all less safe.” Pelosi’s tweet came in response to one from House Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), which called COVID-19 “the Chinese coronavirus.”
Rep. McCarthy’s tweet contained a link to the Center for Disease Control’s website, presumably so his constituents can keep up-to-date regarding information about the developing public health crisis. People are now calling for him to apologize, including Pelosi, who said McCarthy must “must delete this tweet and apologize immediately.” The tweet is still up and no apology from McCarthy has been made. Instead, he doubled-down by explaining why the name is appropriate, tweeting that coronavirus is “a China-born disease” that was “made worse by a Communist Party that rejected America's help to contain it.”
McCarthy is not the first GOP member or right wing pundit to make racist remarks about COVD-19. President Trump shared a tweet from Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk that called it the “China Virus.” Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) has repeatedly tweeted about it with the name “Wuhan virus,” as has Fox News host Laura Ingraham. Fox News even called it a hoax and an “impeachment scam.”
The media has perpetuated this perception by continually using photos of Asian people wearing face masks or pictures of Chinatowns to accompany stories about the outbreak, spreading both misinformation and stereotyping. In one case, a story about the first reported cases in New York City ran alongside a photo of a man riding a subway in Hong Kong.
The director of the CDC said it was wrong to apply the label “Chinese” to the coronavirus during a hearing on Tuesday, noting the virus was also widespread in South Korea, Iran, and Italy. Even still, the racist comments from the right do not appear to be stopping, causing harm to Asians and Asian-Americans in the U.S. who bear the brunt of the impact.