Asian Pacific American Caucus vice chair ‘shocked and dismayed’ GOP leader referred to ‘Chinese coronavirus’

Greg Nash

Rep. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.), the vice chairwoman of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, slammed House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) for using the term “Chinese coronavirus” in a tweet. 

Meng called on McCarthy to apologize for the language she said was offensive. 

“I am shocked and dismayed that the GOP Leader in the House of Representatives has referred to the coronavirus as the ‘Chinese coronavirus,’” Meng said in a statement. “This labeling of the illness is embarrassing, disrespectful, offensive, and downright disgusting. It is shameful.”

A spokesperson for McCarthy was not immediately available for comment.  

On Monday McCarthy tweeted a link to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about the coronavirus, saying “everything you need to know about the Chinese coronavirus can be found on one, regularly-updated website.” 

The leaders of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC), Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC), Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), Congressional native American Caucus and Congressional Progressive Caucus also called on McCarthy, as well as Rep. Paul Goasr (R-Ariz.) who called it the “Wuhan virus,” to apologize. 

Meng said she’s warned the public against singling out the Asian American community as the first cases of the virus were reported in the U.S. 

She also joined fellow members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus in urging their colleagues against stoking xenophobia against Asian Americans as cases of the virus were confirmed in the country. 

In a joint letter to their colleagues last month, members of the caucus called on lawmakers to only share confirmed and verifiable information. The caucus members wrote that it is lawmakers’ responsibility to “calm our constituents’ fears, not stoke them.”  

Meng said McCarthy’s “blatant disregard” for this plea “is truly stunning.” 

“Let’s be absolutely clear: this virus is neither the ‘Chinese coronavirus’ nor the ‘Wuhan virus,’ as yet another Republican Member called it,” she added, referencing a term Gosar, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) have used, “it is the coronavirus – or COVID-19, plain and simple. Wrongly inserting ‘Chinese’ into the name of this disease only reinforces the disparaging and negative stereotypes of Asian Americans.”

Meng called on McCarthy to “immediately apologize” and stop using the “irresponsible” and “insulting” language. 

“Scapegoating and political expediency are never the answer – especially at the expense of respect and responsibility,” she said. 

“Calling the 2019 novel coronavirus the ‘Chinese’ or ‘Wuhan’ coronavirus is as descriptive as calling it the ‘CPAC coronavirus’ – that is to say not descriptive at all. Worse, it’s harmful,” said CAPAC Chair Judy Chu (D-Calif.), referencing the confirmed case of the virus from a person who attended the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). 

Gosar is among lawmakers self-quarantined after learning he interacted with a CPAC attendee who has been hospitalized from the virus. 

CHC Chair Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) said he rejects McCarthy’s “racist rhetoric.” 

“No one should give credence to this false narrative about Asian-Americans or allow this crisis to divide our communities,” Castro added.

CBC Chair Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.) said lawmakers “must be extremely careful” of their words, “because words can have undesired consequences,” noting the examples of attacks on individual and Asian American-owned and operated businesses. 

“This is a time when we all need to come together as a nation,” she added 

Co-Chair of the Native American Caucus Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.) said McCarthy’s language “perpetuates racism” at a time when “we should be encouraging everyone to wash their hands and be vigilant when they don’t feel well.” She said McCarthy should apologize to the entire Aisan American community. 

Congressional Progressive Caucus Co-Chairs Reps. Mark Pocan (D-Wisc.) and Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) said in a joint statement they are “apalled by the xenophobic tweets” about the virus from McCarthy and Gosar. 

“Referring to COVID-19 as the ‘Chinese’ or ‘Wuhan’ coronavirus serves no purpose other than to vilify innocent populations – Representatives McCarthy and Gosar should apologize for this vile and harmful language,” they said. 

The virus originated in Wuhan, China, and has since spread globally. More than 117,000 cases have been confirmed throughout the world, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. 

Nearly 800 cases have been confirmed in the U.S., according to the data.

Tags Coronavirus Deb Haaland Grace Meng Joaquin Castro Judy Chu Karen Bass Kevin McCarthy Mark Pocan Mike Pompeo Pramila Jayapal Tom Cotton

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