Mr Trump, alongside other Republicans, has repeatedly referred to Covid-19 as “kung flu,” or “Wuhan flu,” during the pandemic, and both phrases have been criticised for blaming the virus on a single country and group of people.
Additionally, there are concerns that the phrase could lead to a rise of harassment and mistreatment of Asian Americans, according to NBC News.
“I don’t want a country in which the president of the United States is actively trying to promote anti-Asian sentiment and thinks it’s funny,” Mr Obama reportedly said.
“I don’t want that. That still shocks and p***es me off,” he added.
In March, counselor to the president, Kellyanne Conway, told CBS that the phrase is “highly offensive,” but defended Mr Trump last week when he used it at a youth rally in Phoenix, Arizona, just days after he said it in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
The president used the phrase in Phoenix, after a member of the audience yelled it out when Mr Trump was listing the different names he has heard for the virus.
He added: “Covid-19. I said that’s an odd name. I could give you many, many names. Some people call it the Chinese flu, the China flu, right?” and also referred to the virus as "Wuhan", after the place it is thought to have originated in China.
“My reaction is that the president has made very clear that he wants everybody to understand, and I think many Americans do understand, that the virus originated in China,” Ms Conway told reporters after the event.
“And had China been more transparent and honest with the United States and the world, we wouldn’t have all the death and destruction that unfortunately we’ve suffered,” she added.
Earlier in the year, the World Health Organisation (WHO) director general, Tedros Adhanom, said the name specifically does “not refer to a geographical location, an animal, an individual or group of people, and which is also pronounceable and related to the disease,” according to Forbes.
He reasoned that “having a name matters to prevent the use of other names that can be inaccurate or stigmatizing”.
The phrase has also been criticised by Andy Kang, executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Chicago, who said: “It’s irresponsible and reckless for our political leaders and candidates for our nation’s highest office to engage in rhetoric that incites xenophobic scapegoating and violence.”
The Independent has contacted the White House for comment.
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