White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday that former President Trump’s rhetoric around the coronavirus pandemic has contributed to discrimination against Asian Americans, comments that come in the wake of Tuesday’s shootings in and around Atlanta that left several Asian women dead.
The U.S. has experienced a dramatic increase in anti-Asian hate crimes, which increased 150 percent in 2020, according to an analysis released by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism. NBC News reported this week that there were nearly 3,800 incidents of bias against Asian Americans reported over the past 12 months.
Trump has referred repeatedly to COVID-19 as the “China virus,” the “Wuhan virus” and “kung flu” despite concerns that the rhetoric is contributing to racism against Asian Americans. He used the term “China virus” as recently as Tuesday night in an interview on Fox News, shortly after the shooting was reported.
Psaki said “there’s no question” that Trump’s “damaging rhetoric” about Asians played a role in the spike of hate crimes against the Asian-American community.
“I think that there’s no question that some of the damaging rhetoric that we saw during the prior administration, calling Covid the ‘Wuhan Virus’ or other things, led to perceptions of the Asian American community that are inaccurate, unfair,” Psaki said.
“It has elevated threats against Asian Americans and we’re seeing that across the country,” she continued. “That’s why even before the horrific events of last night, [President Biden] felt it was important to raise this issue, elevate it during his first primetime address.”
“He signed the executive order earlier in his presidency and he will continue to look for ways to elevate and talk about this issue,” Psaki added.
Biden denounced hate crimes against Asian Americans during a primetime address last week marking one-year since pandemic restrictions began, calling the violence “un-American.”
Psaki says "there's no question" that Trump's "damaging rhetoric" about Asians played a role in the spike of hate crimes against Asians happening now in America pic.twitter.com/byUwA3KiSW
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) March 17, 2021