Trump's mixed messages about the coronavirus pandemic aren't helping
Here's one of the great journalistic questions in our age: If a politician does something scandalous in plain sight, even on purpose, is there still a scandal?
President Donald Trump has raised that question in my mind many times. The latest came in an over-the-shoulder photo that Washington Post photographer Jabin Botsford caught of the president's speech text during his daily coronavirus news briefing Thursday.
Blown-up, the photo shows the word "corona," a medical term for a family of viruses, crossed out and the word "Chinese" put in its place with a black marker.
If every picture tells a story, this one added a new twist to the developing dust-up over the president's use of the term "Chinese virus," a usage that has been roundly condemned as racially inflammatory by Asian Americans, among many of the rest of us.
President Donald Trump stands at his notes, which show where the word "corona" was crossed out and replaced with "Chinese" as he speaks with his Coronavirus Task Force at the White House on March 19, 2020.
President Donald Trump stands at his notes, which show where the word "corona" was crossed out and replaced with "Chinese" as he speaks with his Coronavirus Task Force at the White House on March 19, 2020.(Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
There goes our rule-breaking president again. Most of us might have gone the other way, replacing divisive words with something more diplomatic. Trump puts them in.
In fact, the phrase "Chinese virus" for the coronavirus is reported to have become a point of pride for some members of Team Trump. Trump came up with the label "Chinese virus" to describe the novel coronavirus because it was first detected in Wuhan, China, late last year.
Some White House staff are reported to have used the even more blatantly offensive label "Kung flu."
There's more than mere offense involved here, with Asian American and other civil rights leaders citing an increase in anti-Asian hate crimes since the COVID-19 pandemic erupted. It is one of the most tragic aspects of human nature that group hate always lurks beneath society's thin surface of civility.