FBI says probing hate crimes remains 'high priority' amid coronavirus pandemic

FBI says probing hate crimes remains 'high priority' amid coronavirus pandemic
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The FBI is assuring the public that investigating hate crimes remains a top concern amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The agency updated its guidance on COVID-19 to note that “protecting civil rights and investigating hate crimes remain a high priority for the FBI.” The update comes amid growing warnings about hate crimes targeting Asian Americans over the coronavirus.

The bureau added in an intelligence report obtained by ABC News this week that "hate crime incidents against Asian Americans likely will surge across the United States, due to the spread of coronavirus disease ... endangering Asian American communities."

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"The FBI makes this assessment based on the assumption that a portion of the US public will associate COVID-19 with China and Asian American populations," the report stated.

Concerns have risen in recent weeks over the rhetoric used to describe the virus, which first emerged in Wuhan, China, late last year.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpUS reimposes UN sanctions on Iran amid increasing tensions Jeff Flake: Republicans 'should hold the same position' on SCOTUS vacancy as 2016 Trump supporters chant 'Fill that seat' at North Carolina rally MORE and some Republican lawmakers have dubbed the virus the “Chinese virus” or the “Wuhan virus,” though global health experts have condemned the use of those terms, noting that the virus is affecting scores of countries around the world.

“Viruses know no borders, and they don’t care about your ethnicity, the color of your skin or how much money you have in the bank,” Mike Ryan, the executive director of the World Health Organization’s Emergencies Program, said at a news conference earlier this month.

Trump last week defended his use of the term. "It did come from China," he said at a White House briefing. "It is a very accurate term."

Trump on Friday said he had a "very good conversation" with Chinese President Xi Jinping about efforts to combat the virus.

Social media mentions promoting anti-Chinese rhetoric have spiked in recent weeks amid repeated references to the coronavirus as a “foreign” and Chinese disease, according to a new analysis by a Washington think tank.

Trump has vowed to “protect our Asian Americans” and said the coronavirus was "NOT their fault in any way, shape, or form."