Bill Maher defends calling coronavirus ‘Chinese virus,’ mocks Ted Lieu
HBO’s Bill Maher on Friday defended calling the novel coronavirus the “Chinese virus,” arguing that “pretty liberal” scientists “have been naming diseases after the places they came from for a very long time.”
The remarks from the “Real Time” host come after President Trump had repeatedly referred to COVID-19 as the “Chinese virus” but stopped doing so late last month.
“Scientists, who are generally pretty liberal, have been naming diseases after the places they came from for a very long time,” Maher said Friday night while broadcasting his weekly show from his home in California.
“Zika is from the Zika Forest, Ebola from the Ebola River, hantavirus the Hantan River,” he added. “There’s the West Nile virus and Guinea worm and Rocky Mountain spotted fever and, of course, the Spanish flu.”
“MERS stands for Middle East respiratory syndrome,” the host continued. “It’s plastered all over airports, and no one blogs about it. So why should China get a pass?”
Maher proceeded to respond to a tweet by Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), who criticized Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) for calling the coronavirus “the Wuhan Virus” on March 8.
Dear @DrPaulGosar: I will pray for you, your staff & the person hospitalized.
Also, calling #COVIDー19 the Wuhan Virus is an example of the myopia that allowed it to spread in the US. The virus is not constrained by country or race. Be just as stupid to call it the Milan Virus. https://t.co/of91p65mIO
— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) March 9, 2020
“No, that would be way stupider because it didn’t come from Milan,” said Maher. “And if it did, I guarantee we’d be calling it the Milan virus. Jesus f—ing Christ. Can’t we even have a pandemic without getting offended? When they named Lyme disease after a town in Connecticut, the locals didn’t get all ticked off?”
“This is about facts. It’s about life and death. We’re barely four months into this pandemic, and the wet markets in China — the ones where exotic animals are sold and consumed — are already starting to reopen,” he later added.
“Sorry, Americans. We’re going to have to ask you to keep two ideas in your head at the same time: This has nothing to do with Asian Americans, and it has everything to do with China,” Maher concluded. “We can’t afford the luxury anymore of nonjudginess towards a country with habits that kill millions of people everywhere because this isn’t the first time. SARS came from China and the bird flu and the Hong Kong flu, the Asian flu. Viruses come from China just like shortstops come from the Dominican Republic. If they were selling nuclear suitcases at these wet markets, would we be so nonjudgmental?”
Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert and leading member of the White House coronavirus task force, called on wet markets to be closed earlier this month because of the threat they pose.
They “should shut down those things right away,” Fauci told “Fox & Friends.” “It just boggles my mind that when we have so many diseases that emanate out of that unusual human-animal interface that we don’t just shut it down.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) has also called for wet markets to be closed, calling their existence “crazy and dangerous.”
“Bringing wild and exotic animals to open markets to interact with humans and other food supplies is both crazy and dangerous,” Graham tweeted earlier this month. “Hope my Republican and Democratic Senate colleagues will sign onto my letter to the Chinese Ambassador to the U.S. urging the immediate closure of these wet markets for the safety of the world at large.”
The U.S. death toll stands at 18,780, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, with cases surpassing the 500,000 mark as testing continues to escalate.