- President Donald Trump has repeatedly referred to the novel coronavirus as the “Chinese virus.”
- Anthony Fauci, the US’s top expert on infectious disease, on Sunday said he’d never use this phrase to describe the virus.
- Critics say the president has only begun referring to the novel coronavirus as the “Chinese virus” to distract from his own failures in response to the pandemic.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top expert on infectious disease, on Sunday he would never refer to the novel coronavirus as the “Chinese virus.”
As President Donald Trump has sought to rewrite the history of his early response to the coronavirus pandemic, he’s shifted to calling it the “Chinese virus.” This has been widely decried as racist and a transparent attempt to distract from the Trump administration’s failures and delayed reaction surrounding the pandemic.
Fauci was asked about this in an interview with Science Insider, and he said “no” when asked if would ever refer to coronavirus as the “novel coronavirus.”
Question: You have not said China virus. [Trump frequently calls the cause of the spreading illness known as coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) a “China virus” or a “Chinese virus.”]
Question: And you never will, will you?
The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has urged against referring to the novel coronavirus as the “Chinese virus,” particularly as Asian Americans have reported instances of discrimination and public harassment as the virus spreads in the US.
Robert Redfield, the director of the CDC, earlier this month said it is “absolutely wrong and inappropriate” to call COVID-19 the “Chinese coronavirus.”
Moreover, the CDC’s website states: “People in the U.S. may be worried or anxious about friends and relatives who are living in or visiting areas where COVID-19 is spreading. Some people are worried about the disease. Fear and anxiety can lead to social stigma, for example, towards Chinese or other Asian Americans or people who were in quarantine…Stigma hurts everyone by creating more fear or anger towards ordinary people instead of the disease that is causing the problem.”
COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, originated in Wuhan, China. The Chinese government has been broadly criticised for suppressing information on the spread of the virus, particularly early on. But it’s also taken measures that have seemingly been successful in slowing the rate of new infections.
In January, Trump praised China’s response to the novel coronavirus, but he’s shifted to blaming China for the global spread while referring to it as the “Chinese virus.”
Trump on January 24:
Trump on March 19:
"We continue our relentless effort to defeat the Chinese virus" — Trump again begins today's coronavirus news conference with some casual racism pic.twitter.com/Xgcmiq38Ur
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) March 19, 2020
Meanwhile, Fauci, a public health hero who’s led the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases for over 30 years, has emerged as one of the most trusted voices in the US amid the coronavirus pandemic.
But as coronavirus has spread acrosss the US, Fauci has had to walk a very fine line between keeping the public informed and calm, and not angering a president with a history of lashing out at aides and officials who are seen as undermining him.
With that said, Trump has a tendency to embellish or spread outright false information, which can be dangerous during a pandemic. On more than one occasion, Fauci has stepped up and contradicted or corrected statements made by the president.
Addressing the difficulty of this in the Science Insider interview, Fauci said: “I can’t jump in front of the microphone and push him down. OK, he said it. Let’s try and get it corrected for the next time.”
When Fauci didn’t appear at one of the White House’s daily press briefings on the coronavirus response last week, it raised alarm bells that he’d been sidelined for being too honest and embarrassing a president with an aversion to facts.
In a separate interview with the New York Times, published on Saturday, Fauci said his straightforward style of talking is a “risky business.”
“I say it the way it is, and if he’s gonna get pissed off, he’s gonna get pissed off. Thankfully, he is not. Interestingly,” Fauci said, referring to Trump.
“I don’t want to embarrass him,” Fauci added. “I don’t want to act like a tough guy, like I stood up to the president. I just want to get the facts out. And instead of saying, ‘You’re wrong,’ all you need to do is continually talk about what the data are and what the evidence is.”
Fauci said Trump “gets that” and “takes it in a good way,” calling him a “smart guy.”