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Elaine Chao: Must 'intensify' work to combat hatred against Asian community

Elaine Chao: Must 'intensify' work to combat hatred against Asian community
© Greg Nash

Former Transportation Secretary Elaine ChaoElaine ChaoThe FCC's decision to reallocate the safety band spectrum will impede efforts to save lives Top Democrat: FCC actions are a 'potential setback' to autonomous vehicles The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Tax March - US vaccine effort takes hit with Johnson & Johnson pause MORE on Thursday weighed in on the shootings in Atlanta, offering her first remarks in the wake of the violence that left eight people dead, including six Asian women.

“My thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims of the attack in Atlanta,” Chao, who is Asian American, said in a statement. “Such vicious, unconscionable acts of violence cut at the very core of our country and the values on which it was founded."

“As we await the findings of a thorough investigation, the critical work to combat the haunting rise of hatred against the AAPI community must intensify with the immediacy this latest tragedy commands,” said Chao, who is married to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSenate GOP blocks voting rights bill Schumer, McConnell spar as GOP prepares to block voting bill Trump has 'zero desire' to be Speaker, spokesman says MORE (R-Ky.) and who served in former President TrumpDonald TrumpGuardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa wins GOP primary in NYC mayor's race Garland dismisses broad review of politicization of DOJ under Trump Schumer vows next steps after 'ridiculous,' 'awful' GOP election bill filibuster MORE’s administration.

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Chao’s comments come on the same day the House Judiciary Committee’s civil rights subcommittee held a hearing condemning the troubling rise of violence and discrimination against Asian Americans during the pandemic.

This comes after several studies found that incidents of anti-Asian hate crimes skyrocketed in the past year.

The hearing also highlighted the incendiary rhetoric that many believe was in part responsible for the increase in bigotry against the Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) community.

During the hearing, several lawmakers linked the rise in anti-Asian bigotry to former President Trump’s rhetoric on the coronavirus.

Subpanel Chairman Steve CohenStephen (Steve) Ira CohenWray grilled on FBI's handling of Jan. 6 Viola Fletcher, oldest living survivor of Tulsa Race Massacre, testifies in Congress 'seeking justice' Lobbying world MORE (D-Tenn.) said that "when politicians use terms like ‘China Virus’ or ‘Kung Flu’" it has "the effect — intentional or not — of putting a target on the backs of all Asian Americans."

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Rep. Grace MengGrace MengHouse sends anti-Asian hate bill to Biden's desk Senate locks in hate crimes deal, setting up Thursday passage Jim Jordan, Val Demings get in shouting match about police during hearing MORE (D-N.Y.), during a Thursday appearance on Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonWhite House pushes back on claims Biden doing too little on voting rights The Memo: Some Democrats worry rising crime will cost them Boeing's top lobbyist leaves company MORE’s “Why Am I Telling You This” podcast, took aim at Trump for his rhetoric, directly linking his language to the rise in anti-Asian bigotry.

“When I first heard the former president use words like ‘kung flu’ and ‘Chinese virus,’ I was really horrified. And every time he said it, I thought, okay, this will be the last time. He couldn't possibly continue to use it,” Meng said.

“And when you have a leader in this country who has a tremendous platform, use words and fuel false facts and misinformation about the virus and it's perpetuated by the leaders, the top leaders of the Republican party in the White House and in the Congress, what happens is people, Asian Americans are getting shoved, assaulted, spat on,” she added.

CNN first reported on Chao's statement.

Chao resigned from her post at the Department of Transportation in early January, one day after the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol. Chao, who had served since the beginning days of the administration, said she was “deeply troubled” by the “entirely avoidable event” at the Capitol.