AAPIs bear the brunt of GOP rhetoric on coronavirus outbreak

By: Seema Nanda, Rep. Grace Meng, and Bel Leong-Hong

ACROSS the country, COVID-19 is taking its toll. Currently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that despite the continued lack of widespread testing, they have identified more than 10,000 infections across all 50 states, District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Virgin Islands.

After weeks of inaction by the federal government to the spread of this deadly virus, President Trump’s administration is finally moving to address the fast-moving crisis. Sadly, the work of dedicated government officials continues to be scrambled by the White House’s parallel efforts to protect Trump from criticism and to buttress the misinformation coming from the president himself.

Unfortunately, part of the White House and the GOP’s strategy to shift blame over the government’s paralysis in addressing this crisis is their increasing use of dog-whistle politics through xenophobia.

On March 9, GOP Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy called COVID-19 “Chinese coronavirus.” The day prior, Arizona Congressman Paul Gosar called it the “Wuhan Virus” during his announcement that he may have been exposed to the virus.

Most recently, President Trump has defended labeling COVID-19 the “Chinese virus,” and his ongoing focus on the travel-related spread of the virus goes against the reality on the ground, where the recent spike in infections is happening through community transmission.

The language they choose glosses over the fact that panic and fear are spreading because of Trump’s inability to lead. Instead, they chose that classic GOP tactic of blaming communities of color and immigrant communities for their party’s failures to lead.

It may be easy to dismiss the negative reactions to these tweets as an over-reaction as McCarthy suggests, but the increasing xenophobia that results from the government’s continued inaction to stop the spread of the infection is having real-world consequences.

While Americans are left untreated and untested for possible infection, more than 1,000 acts of racism and discrimination–or 37 per day–have been perpetrated against people of Asian descent.

As Americans panic over the lack of clear guidance from the Trump administration, Asian-owned businesses are suffering throughout the country due to the erroneous association between Asian Americans and the deadly virus.

While Trump blames the virus on China, Chinese Americans are feeling increasingly isolated and targeted because of the president’s willingness to amplify misinformation.

Instead of alleviating the suffering of Americans whose lives are being directly impacted by the panic that resulted from the government’s inaction, the GOP is diverting blame and responsibility in order to protect Trump’s fragile ego. But this should not come as a surprise, as the GOP has shown that they offer nothing to everyday Americans other than mismanagement and lack of leadership in the service of protecting Trump’s cult of personality.

This crisis — along with the countless self-manufactured crises that have become the defining hallmarks of the Trump administration — has laid bare exactly what is at stake during this year’s election, and why we must all put a stop to Trump and the GOP before they continue to destroy our country through paralysis and lack of leadership.

For Asian Americans, it is clear that we must choose elected officials up and down the ballot who will not resort to racist innuendos to scapegoat our community or any other communities of color for the failures of a president.

We deserve better than the cult of personality that the GOP offers, and we have the power to change the direction of our country in November.


Seema Nanda is the first AAPI CEO of the Democratic National Committee and she will be responsible for executing the DNC’s national strategy during this year’s crucial election. Previously she was the Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer for the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.

Rep. Grace Meng is the Vice Chair for the DNC and the first AAPI member of Congress from New York. She represents the 6th district of New York, which includes the New York City borough of Queens. 

Bel Leong-Hong is the National Chair of the DNC’s AAPI Caucus, a leadership role she has held since 2005. She is also the Founder and CEO of Knowledge Advantage, Inc. and previously served in the U.S. Department of Defense for 20 years.

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