Kellyanne Conway, a top White House advisor and counselor to the president, sparred with White House reporters on Wednesday after CBS News reporter Weijia Jiang, who is Asian-American, tweeted that a “White House official referred to #Coronavirus as the ‘Kung-Flu’ to my face.”
“This morning a White House official referred to #Coronavirus as the ‘Kung-Flu’ to my face,” Jiang tweeted on Tuesday. “Makes me wonder what they’re calling it behind my back.”
Asked about the incident on Wednesday morning, Conway responded: “Of course it’s wrong,” before she refused to engage in what she described as a “hypothetical” situation.
"I'm married to an Asian" — Kellyanne Conway downplays White House official reportedly calling coronavirus "Kung-Flu" and Trump using the term "Chinese Virus" pic.twitter.com/aI9TubIfGz
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) March 18, 2020
When PBS NewsHour correspondent Yamiche Alcindor pressed Conway to denounce the reported “Klung-flu” remark, Conway responded, “That’s been alleged….I’m not dealing in hypotheticals here, of course, it’s wrong, but you can’t just make an accusation and not tell us who it is” before pressing Jiang herself to reveal the staffer’s identity.
“Weija, who was it? Tell us, I think we out to know?” Conway said.
“You understand how these conversations go,” Jiang said.
Conway replied, “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. I’m not going to engage in hypotheticals, I’m married to an Asian…my kids are partly — I’m married to an Asian-American, my kids are 25% Filipino.”
Conway’s husband, attorney and vocal Trump critic George Conway, is of Filipino descent on his mother’s side.
In her remarks to reporters, Kellyanne Conway said Trump is justified in repeatedly calling the novel coronavirus “the China virus” or “Chinese virus” because it was first identified in the city of Wuhan, China.
.@KellyannePolls says the president is referring to where the virus started when he refers to the #coronavirus as the “Chinese virus.” (Critics consider the description racist.) pic.twitter.com/0vqNXyB3SC
— Jeff Mason (@jeffmason1) March 18, 2020
Trump on Wednesday afternoon again defended calling the coronavirus causing COVID-19 a “Chinese virus” during a White House press conference.
“It’s not racist at all,” Trump said when a reporter asked about the phrase creating a dangerous stigma for Chinese Americans. “No, not at all.”
“Because it comes from China,” Trump said to the reporter who asked him that question. “That’s why.”
“I want to be accurate.”
“I know where it came from,” Trump said later in the briefing when pressed again on referring to the coronavirus as a “Chinese virus.”
Q: "Why do you keep calling this the Chinese Virus?"
President Trump: "It comes from China…it's not racist."
— CSPAN (@cspan) March 18, 2020
World Health Organization officials warned against calling COVID-19 the “Chinese virus,” saying that it could unintentionally lead to racial profiling.
“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. So it’s really important we be careful in the language we use lest it lead to the profiling of individuals associated with the virus,” Dr. Mike Ryan, the executive director of WHO’s emergencies program, said at a press conference Wednesday when asked about Trump’s comments inciting violence against Asians.