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Stefanik supports Trump on ‘Chinese virus’ issue

Social media was abuzz Wednesday with discussion over President Donald Trump’s new phrase “Chinese virus,” and U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik said she sees no problem with the word and wants to focus on the future.

In the past few days Trump’s messaging about the coronavirus spreading through the country has focused on where the virus came from. He calls it the “Chinese virus” and on Wednesday a White House official speaking to CBS News reporter Weijia Jiang referred to it as the “Kung-Flu.”

Many Asian-Americans have reported facing anger, isolation or aggression as coronavirus has become more common in the U.S., with frustrations and fear turning into bigotry.

In the debate, many have called Trump’s use of the phrase racist, and others say it is just accurate.

“This virus originated in China. That’s a fact,” Stefanik said. “It is not racist to say that it originated in Wuhan or that it originated in China.”

Stefanik said this is similar to talking about Spanish flu, Ebola or Zika, all of which refer to the region or a landmark in the region with which the disease is associated.* She said China has spread propaganda, pointing fingers and blaming other countries, including the U.S. military, for the spread of COVID-19.

“We need to speak out loudly and clearly among our allies to push back on that propaganda from the Chinese Communist Party,” Stefanik said.

Asked if it’s racist to use the term “China virus” when the true name for the virus is “COVID-19,” Stefanik said it is not.

“When my office is putting out information we call it coronavirus or COVID-19, but I’m not going to engage in those discussions. The facts are that this originated in China,” Stefanik said. “The focus should be on the public health needs of today and tomorrow.”

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* Editor’s note: While Ebola and Zika are place names in the areas of where those viral outbreaks originated, the Spanish flu did not necessarily originate in Spain. Its source is undetermined, but when the outbreak began during World War I, the U.S. and many European countries censored reports of it in the press to maintain morale. Spain was neutral in the war and did not censor press reports on the outbreak, so the Spanish press was where many people heard about it first and incorrectly believed the outbreak began there.