Trump again refers to coronavirus as 'kung flu'

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump on Kanye West's presidential run: 'He is always going to be for us' Marie Yovanovitch on Vindman retirement: He 'deserved better than this. Our country deserved better than this' Trump says Biden has been 'brainwashed': 'He's been taken over by the radical left' MORE referred to the coronavirus as the “kung flu” on Tuesday during his speech addressing young people in Phoenix, despite past criticisms that the phrase is racist.

The president used the term “kung flu” when speaking to students from the conservative group Turning Point Action, days after saying it at his campaign rally in Tulsa, Okla., on Saturday. 

The first reported outbreak of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, was in Wuhan, China, and Trump’s nickname for it is a riff on kung fu, a name for Chinese martial arts.

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“I said the other night, there’s never been anything where they have so many names,” Trump said, referencing his Tulsa event, which was his first campaign rally since the pandemic closed down much of the country. “I could give you 19 or 20 names for that, right? It’s got all different names.”

The president then listed several names for the disease, including the coronavirus, the “Wuhan” virus and “the Chinese virus.” When Trump said “kung flu,” the crowd responded with cheers.  

Trump then questioned “what’s the 19” in COVID-19, saying that "some people can’t explain what the 19" is. 

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The name COVID-19 refers to the fact that the disease arose in 2019. 

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany defended Trump’s use of “kung flu” at his rally, saying at a Monday briefing that the president was referring to the virus by “its place of origin.” She denied that the president used racist phrases and said he didn’t believe the phrase was offensive.

The president’s use of the term comes after White House counselor Kellyanne ConwayKellyanne Elizabeth ConwaySources say DeSantis undercutting fundraising for Republican National Convention because of personal dispute: report Democrats see victory in Trump culture war Kellyanne Conway on Trump niece's book: 'I believe family matters should be family matters' MORE criticized reports of a White House official calling the virus the “kung flu.” Conway called the reports “highly offensive” and requested a CBS News reporter name the official during a briefing. 

Trump has been criticized previously for calling the coronavirus the “Wuhan virus” and the “Chinese virus,” and officials have defended him, saying that media outlets had used the terms in the earlier days of the pandemic.