Mar 17, 2020 - Health

The WHO said to stop calling it "Chinese" coronavirus, but Republicans didn't listen

Reproduced from DRFLab; Chart: Axios Visuals

Over the past few days there's been a noticeable uptick in conservatives using the terms "Wuhan virus" and "Chinese virus," according to a new report from The Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab provided exclusively to Axios.

Why it matters: This is in opposition to guidance from the World Health Organization, which requested back in February that the epidemic be referred to as coronavirus or Covid-19, rather than terms that could stigmatize individuals with Chinese ancestry.

  • As the outbreak first entered the news cycle in mid-January, phrases such as “China Virus,” “Wuhan Virus,” “Chinese Coronavirus,” and “Wuhan Coronavirus” were used widely.
  • But when the World Health Organization introduced the terminology "COVID-19," news outlets began to widely adopt it.

Driving the news:

  • March 7: Sec. of State Mike Pompeo’s appearance on CNBC and Fox and Friends resulted in an 800% increase in the phrase “Chinese Coronavirus,” per the report.
  • March 8: Increases in the use of the term "Wuhan Virus," — named for the region of the country where the virus first broke out — began to spike after U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ), referred to coronavirus as “Wuhan virus” in a tweet.
  • March 9: House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy used the term “Chinese Coronavirus” in a tweet. President Trump subsequently retweeted Charlie Kirk, founder of Turning Point USA, referring to the coronavirus as “China Virus,” a term he now uses more often. Trump has also referred to coronavirus as the "foreign virus."

The big picture: Their language mimics the language used by the Trump administration to try to subtly frame other national security issues as problems created by foreigners.

  • President Trump has many times used the term "invasion" to describe migrants from Mexico and South America. His rhetoric was echoed by a mass shooter in El Paso, Texas last year, who referred to a "Hispanic invasion" in his manifesto.

Between the lines: Reports suggest that Chinese restaurants around the world are taking a hit all over the world.

  • A recent Los Angeles Times article details ways that Chinese Americans are beginning to feel marginalized because of unfounded virus shaming. One student says they feel judged when they cough or sneeze.

Go deeper: Beijing's coronavirus propaganda blitz goes global

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