May 21, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Civil rights group sues Trump for calling COVID-19 "China virus"

Picture of Donald Trump

Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Former President Trump is being sued by the Chinese Americans Civil Rights Coalition (CARC) for using racist terms to refer to the coronavirus.

Why it matters: Since the beginning of the pandemic, there has been a spike in attacks against members of the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities.

  • "We saw that hate speech really led to hate violence" when Trump started calling COVID-19 the "China virus," says Russell Jeung, creator of the Stop AAPI Hate tracker and chair of the Asian American Studies at San Francisco State University.

The state of play: The recently-formed civil rights group alleges that during and after his presidency, Trump has ignored attacks against the Asian American community, which increased "particularly since his repeated use of such inflammatory phases."

  • CARC is asking for $1 as an apology to every Asian American in the U.S., amounting to a total of $22.9 million.
  • The nonprofit cites terms like the "China virus," "Chinese virus" and "Wuhan virus," which Trump has used repeatedly.

Details: "Duty comes with authority. Responsibility comes with power. Holding the most powerful office in the country, Defendant reckless[ly] neglected his official duty to represent all Americans," the group writes in the lawsuit.

"Against the well-published WHO guidelines and the repeated advices from health officials of his own administration, Defendant intentionally repeated those defamatory words to serve his own personal and political interest with astonishing level of actual malice and negligence, hence severely injuring the Chinese/Asian Americans communities in the process."

What they're saying: "We have seen a rising trend targeting Asian Americans," Yu-Xi (Glen) Liu, the attorney representing CARC, told Axios.

  • "Certain fragments of society like to scapegoat other people for what's happening in the world, specifically the pandemic, and that is, to say the very least, an embarrassment to American values," he added.
  • Liu said he expects that Trump will file for a motion to dismiss the lawsuit.

The other side: "This is an insane and idiotic lawsuit that is specious at best, and it will be dismissed if it ever sees a courtroom," Trump senior adviser Jason Miller told The Hill.

  • "It's a complete joke, and if I was the lawyer that brought it I’d be worried about getting sanctioned," he added.
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