Trump sued by civil rights group for calling COVID-19 'China virus'

Former President TrumpDonald TrumpNew Capitol Police chief to take over Friday Overnight Health Care: Biden officials says no change to masking guidance right now | Missouri Supreme Court rules in favor of Medicaid expansion | Mississippi's attorney general asks Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade Michael Wolff and the art of monetizing gossip MORE has been sued by a civil rights group for calling COVID-19 the “China virus” last year.

The federal complaint by the Chinese Americans Civil Rights Coalition (CARC) alleges that Trump’s use of that phrase and similar terms harmed the Chinese American community.

The lawsuit was first reported by TMZ.

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Trump’s “extreme and outrageous conduct was carried out throughout the pandemic with reckless disregard of whether such conduct would cause Chinese Americans to suffer emotional distress,” the suit states.

Jason Miller, senior adviser for Trump, told The Hill in a statement, "This is an insane and idiotic lawsuit that is specious at best, and it will be dismissed if it ever sees a courtroom." 

"It’s a complete joke, and if I was the lawyer that brought it I’d be worried about getting sanctioned," he said. 

The coronavirus pandemic has led to a worrying and well-documented increase in violence against Asian Americans that activists have blamed in part on rhetoric like Trump's.

Trump and his allies repeatedly used the term “Chinese virus” and other derogatory phrases since COVID-19 was initially detected in Wuhan, China.

A study from the University of California, San Francisco published in March found that Trump calling COVID-19 the “Chinese virus” in a tweet in March 2020 led to an increase in the use of anti-Asian hashtags on the platform.

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Last year, a photo of Trump’s notes during a press briefing went viral after it showed the word “corona” in coronavirus crossed out and replaced with “Chinese.”

Trump has defended his use of the term, saying, “It comes from China, that's why. I want to be accurate.”

But as the suit points out, the origins of COVID-19 are still unclear. 

The plaintiffs allege that Trump knew this as he made his derogatory claims. The suit further claims that Trump should have realized the full impact of his words.

“The truth matters, words have consequences ... especially from those in powerful and influential positions,” the complaint states. “[Trump] intentionally repeated those defamatory words to serve his own personal and political interest with astonishing level of actual malice and negligence, hence severely injuring the Chinese/Asian Americans communities in the process.”

CACRC is asking for $1 for every Asian American and Pacific Islander in the United States, which would total $22.9 million. The plaintiffs said they would use the money to establish a museum that would showcase the history and accomplishments of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community in the U.S.