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A White House official called coronavirus the 'Kung-Flu' to an Asian-American reporter's face

Business Insider logo Business Insider 3/17/2020 John Haltiwanger
Donald Trump wearing a suit and tie talking on a cell phone © AP Photo/Evan Vucci
  • An Asian-American reporter, Weijia Jiang, on Tuesday said that a White House official called the novel coronavirus "Kung-Flu" to her face.
  • President Donald Trump has faced criticism for referring to coronavirus as a "Chinese Virus" and "foreign virus."
  • The director of the CDC earlier this month said it is "absolutely wrong and inappropriate" to call COVID-19 the "Chinese coronavirus."
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

A White House official called the novel coronavirus the "Kung-Flu" to CBS News reporter Weijia Jiang's face, the journalist tweeted on Tuesday.

"This morning a White House official referred to #Coronavirus as the "Kung-Flu" to my face. Makes me wonder what they're calling it behind my back," Jiang said.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The novel coronavirus, which originated in Wuhan, China, and causes the disease COVID-19, is a pandemic that has spread to 145 countries.

Some Republicans, including President Donald Trump, have sought to portray coronavirus as a foreign illness that is China's fault. On Thursday, Trump called coronavirus a "Chinese Virus" in a tweet. In an Oval Office address last Wednesday announcing travel restrictions on Europe, Trump referred to coronavirus as a "foreign virus."

Chinese officials condemned Trump's Thursday night tweet. "The US should first take care of its own matters," said Geng Shuang, a spokesman for China's Foreign Ministry, per NBC News.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has urged against using such phrasing or discriminating against Chinese people. 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."

China has faced criticism over efforts to suppress information over the scale out the coronavirus outbreak within its borders, but it's also taken aggressive measures that appear to have slowed the rate of new infections in the country.

Meanwhile, the US government is lagging behind much of the world in terms of testing for the novel coronavirus, and therefore does not have a full picture of the extent of the outbreak across the country.

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