Kellyanne Conway condemned racist term 'kung flu' three months before Trump said it at rally

'I'm not dealing in hypotheticals, of course it's wrong'

Graig Graziosi
Monday 22 June 2020 22:15 BST
Kellyanne Conway condemns racist term 'kung flu' three months before Trump says it

White House aide Kellyanne Conway appears to have condemned the term "Kung Flu" a little more than three months before her boss, President Donald Trump, used the term at a rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

The exchange is perhaps a reminder that - so far as his staff is concerned - the rules do not apply to Mr Trump.

The video of Ms Conway condemning the term "Kung Flu" - a racist term referencing the fact that the coronavirus originated in China - is from 18 March and involved a heated exchange between her, PBS White House Correspondent Yamiche Alcindor and at least one other reporter.

In the video, the reporter asks Ms Conway about rumours that White House staffers were referring to the coronavirus as the "Kung Flu." Ms Conway baulks at the accusation and asks the reporter to step in front of the cameras and to say the names of the individuals being accused of making the remarks.

Ms Alcindor can then be heard off-screen from the other side of the press gaggle pushing Ms Conway to answer the original question and make a statement on the term.

"Yamiche, I'm not dealing in hypotheticals, of course it's wrong," Ms Conway said.

Ms Conway continues to challenge the original reporter to say the names of the individuals they were asking about, at one point referring to the phrase "Kung Flu" as "very offensive."

Despite being a "very offensive" term, Mr Trump appeared to have no issue using it at his campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma on Saturday. While Mr Trump was complaining about getting "hit left and right" with criticisms, he became distracted and began complaining that the coronavirus had too many names.

"I can name Kung Flu, I can name 19 different versions of names," Mr Trump said. "Many call it a virus, which it is, many call it a flu, what difference? I think we have 19 or 20 versions of the name."

Mr Trump's latest apologist, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany, defended the president, claiming the phrase is simply a way of denoting the virus's origin, and that it contains no racial component.

"It's a fair thing to point out as China tries to ridiculously rewrite history to ridiculously blame the coronavirus on American soldiers. President Trump is trying to say 'no, China, I will label this virus for its place of origin,'" Ms McEnany said.

The Trump administration's strategy since late March has been to portray the US's continued struggle to effectively respond to the virus as the fault of China, despite almost every other major developed country on the planet managing to bend the curve.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo demanded fellow G8 delegates refer to the virus as the "Wuhan virus" at a virtual summit earlier this year and alleged that China's distribution of medical equipment and PPE to other countries battling the pandemic was simply the country grasping for positive PR.

Mr Trump wasn't the only one to use the racist phrase. His son, Donald Trump Jr, also referred to the coronavirus as the "Kung Flu."

A little more than a week after Ms Conway said the term was offensive, Don Jr shared a video on his Instagram page in which a doctored version of the final fight scene in "The Karate Kid" portrays Mr Trump beating up the coronavirus and China.

"Hahahaha 'The Kung-Flu kid,'" he wrote.

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