Three months ago, at the very beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, CBS News reporter Weijia Jiang revealed that a White House official had called COVID-19 the “Kung Flu” to her face. “Makes me wonder what they’re calling it behind my back,” she tweeted at the time.
So after President Donald Trump himself used that openly racist term during his campaign rally speech in Tulsa over the weekend, Jiang asked White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany about it on Monday.
Noting that Trump has deemed himself “the least racist person there is anywhere in the world,” Jiang asked, “Why does he use racist phrases like the Kung Flu?”
“The president doesn’t,” McEnany lied. “What the president does do is point to the fact that the origin of the virus is China.” As the press secretary continued to defend Trump’s words, Jiang pushed back, expressing the concerns of Asian-Americans around the country who worry that those words will further inflame racist attacks against them.
“To be clear, are you saying the White House does not believe it’s racist?” Jiang asked.
“To be clear, I think the media is trying to play games with the terminology of this virus when the focus should be on the fact that China let this out of their country,” McEnany shot back.
Later in the briefing, PBS NewsHour’s Yamiche Alcindor brought up the fact that White House counselor Kellyanne Conway called the term “Kung Flu” “highly offensive” back in March. “Does the president agree with Kellyanne Conway or is he now saying that term is not ‘highly offensive’ and wrong?’”
When McEnany responded by saying that “the president does not believe it’s offensive to note that this virus came from China,” Alcindor pressed her to actually answer the question about Conway and “Kung Flu.” Instead, McEnany quickly pivoted to a softball question about John Bolton from her invited guest, OAN reporter Chanel Rion.