Washington (CNN)White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany is defending President Donald Trump’s recent use of the term “kung flu” to refer to the coronavirus at a rally over the weekend, insisting that it isn’t racist.
Asked why Trump has used racist phrases, including “kung flu”, McEnany said Monday: “The President doesn’t. What the President does do is point to the fact that the origin of the virus is China. It’s a fair thing to point out(.)” Pressed by CBS reporter Weijia Jiang about the use of the term, McEnany insisted during Monday’s press briefing that the use of the phrase was based on Trump’s push to link the virus “to its place of origin.” The use of the term “kung flu” in the White House was first made public when CBS’ Jiang, an Asian American, reported in March that “a White House official referred to coronavirus as the ‘kung flu’ to my face.” At the time, White House adviser Kellyanne Conway said the term was “highly offensive.” Read More”I don’t know how these conversations go, and that’s highly offensive so you should tell us who it is, I’d like to know who it is,” Conway told reporters. Reporters did not give Conway a name.Asked Monday if the President’s use of the term was “highly offensive” as Conway said, McEnany replied: “The President does not believe that it’s offensive to note that this virus came from China (.)”Trump's 'kidding' on testing exposes his negligence as virus spikesThe press secretary also brushed off concerns that Asian Americans are offended by the use of the phrase and that it would lead to more discrimination. “The President has said very clearly: It’s important that we totally protect our Asian community in the US and all around the world. They’re amazing people and the spreading of the virus is not their fault in any way, shape or form,” McEnany said. “So, it’s not a discussion about Asian Americans, who the President values and prizes as citizens of this great country. It is an indictment of China for letting this virus get here.”Asked if Trump regrets using the term, McEnany said Trump “never regrets putting the onus back on China, pointing out that China is responsible for this and in the process standing up for US troops who are being blamed by China in a campaign of misinformation.”McEnany also tried to equate the media’s initial association of the virus with China, in terms such as the “Wuhan coronavirus” and the “Chinese coronavirus”, to Trump’s use of “kung flu.” But, as CNN’s Kaitlan Collins pointed out in the briefing, major news organizations have not used the term “kung flu” to refer to the virus. Trump first referred to Covid-19 as the “Chinese virus” and the “China virus” earlier this spring, but after garnering criticism, he said he would back off of his use of the term. And a day before backing off the term, the President tweeted out that the spread of the coronavirus was not the fault of Asian Americans — a group that had been the target of a growing number of racist and xenophobic attacks related to the virus. “Look, everyone knows it came out of China, but I decided we shouldn’t make any more of a big deal out of it,” Trump told Fox News in March. “I think I’ve made a big deal. I think people understand it.”The President said at the time that he didn’t regret using the terms to describe the virus and defended his past adoption of the terms by referencing other infectious diseases that are named after where they originate.But over the last few weeks, Trump has returned back to labeling Covid-19 in a way that associates the virus with China in increasingly harsh terms — calling coronavirus the plague coming into the US from China, then “the Chinese plague,” and, most recently, the “kung flu.” “It’s a disease, without question, has more names than any disease in history, ” Trump said in Tulsa, Oklahoma, during his first rally since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. “I can name ‘kung flu,’ I can name 19 different versions of name. Many call it a virus, which it is. Many call it a flu. What difference? I think we have 19, 20 different versions of the name.”