On Monday, President Donald Trump took to (where else?) Twitter to call the coronavirus “the Chinese Virus”, echoing similar attempts from some lawmakers in recent weeks to rebrand the pandemic as a foreign threat.
The United States will be powerfully supporting those industries, like Airlines and others, that are particularly affected by the Chinese Virus. We will be stronger than ever before!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 16, 2020
The tweet drew widespread criticism for stoking nativist fears and playing into xenophobic sentiment that has characterized the worst of America’s response to the threat of Covid-19. Author, pastor and new president of Bread for the World Eugene Cho responded on social media, saying Trump’s rhetoric was “not acceptable”.
“Calling it the ‘Chinese virus’ only instigates blames, racism and hatred against Asians – here and abroad,” Cho wrote. “We need leadership that speaks clearly against racism; Leadership that brings the nation and world together. Not further divides.”
Mr. President: This is not acceptable. Calling it the "Chinese virus" only instigates blame, racism, and hatred against Asians – here and abroad. We need leadership that speaks clearly against racism; Leadership that brings the nation and world together. Not further divides. https://t.co/wPTcnoO5QU
— Eugene Cho (@EugeneCho) March 17, 2020
Cho was born in Korea and immigrated to the U.S. when he was six years old. He told the Washington Post that he knows of three people who have been assaulted in the last few weeks over what he believes is rising anti-Asian sentiment in the U.S. that has its roots in xenophobic beliefs about the coronavirus pandemic.
“I can’t speak for all Asians,” he said. “I know for myself and my family, we’re not just contending with a health crisis … There might be backlash verbal and physical.”
Cho also told The Post that he prays for Trump and Vice-President Mike Pence. In his most recent book Thall Shall Not Be a Jerk, Cho addresses toxic political rhetoric online and how Christians can set a more charitable course. In an interview with RELEVANT, Cho cautioned Christians against dehumanizing their political critics.
“One of the biggest temptations in our world today is to dehumanize those we disagree with and in that process,” he said. “We actually don’t know that we’ve done it. Not only does it harm the other person we’re bullying or mocking, but I think there’s something that’s being lost in our own soul flourishing as well. We have to keep naming it and acknowledging it.”
On Monday, President Donald Trump and the White House’s Coronavirus task force addressed the nation with a markedly different tone than Trump had been using the last few weeks. While the early weeks of the coronavirus threat had been characterized by Trump’s attempts to downplay Covid-19 or even write it off as a “hoax”, he spent Monday’s press conference urging extreme measures and warning that the CDC guidelines for congregating could last into the summer.
“It’s bad, it’s bad,” Trump admitted. “But we’re going to be hopefully, a best case, not a worst case, and that’s what we’re working for.”