“The world is paying a very big price for that they did,” Trump said, referring to his claim that Chinese officials did not fully share information sooner about the coronavirus outbreak after it began in China.
“It could have been stopped right where it came from, China,” Trump said at a White House news conference.
He argued that American officials would have been able to act faster if China’s government had fully shared information about the outbreak, which began around the city of Wuhan.
“It would have been much better if we had known about this a number of months earlier,” the president said.
Asked if there would be repercussions for China given his view of how that country handled the outbreak, Trump said, “I don’t want to comment on that right now.”
Two months ago, Trump praised China’s response to the coronavirus, saying that country “has been working very hard” to contain the virus, and writing in a tweet that, “the United states greatly appreciates their efforts and transparency.”
But in recent days, Trump has repeatedly called the coronavirus the “Chinese virus,” and did so again at the beginning of his news conference.
Photos of the sheet of paper containing remarks that Trump read from at the beginning of the event reveal that someone with handwriting similar to Trump’s had crossed out the word “Corona,” and wrote the word “Chinese” above it.
The word “Virus” appeared right after that word.
A close up of President Donald J. Trumps notes shows where Corona was crossed out Corona and replaced with Chinese Virus as he speaks with his coronavirus task force in response to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic during a briefing in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House on Thursday, March 19, 2020 in Washington, DC.
Jabin Botsford | The Washington Post | Getty Images
Trump’s habit of saying “Chinese virus” has drawn strong criticism from Chinese officials and from a number of U.S. politicians, including former Vice President Joe Biden, the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination.
During a news conference Wednesday, Trump defended his use of that term, saying it was “not racist at all.”
“Because it comes from China,” Trump said when asked Wednesday why he continued using the term. “That’s why.”
“I want to be accurate.”
Biden’s campaign responded to Trump’s press conference Thursday with a statement saying, “Trump Lies After Spending Months Downplaying Coronavirus and Ignoring Scientists and Experts Who Sounded the Alarm.”
“Donald Trump is attempting, yet again, to hide his record of failure on combating the coronavirus, using today’s press briefing to attempt to erase his months of ignoring medical experts who were sounding the alarm — saying: ‘If people would have known about it, could have been stopped in place, it could have been stopped where it came from, China,’ ” the Biden campaign said.
“The reality is, he did know about it and experts spent months trying to prompt Trump into action as he downplayed the growing threat of the virus and praised the Chinese government’s bungled early response — at a time when Vice President Biden warned him not to take their word about the disease,” the campaign said.
“Now, as this crisis explodes on his watch, Trump is desperately lashing out to try to cover up his incompetence and mismanagement.
Asked if he believed that report, Trump said, ‘I hope it’s true.”
Flanked by members of the Coronavirus Task Force, U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a news briefing on the latest development of the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. in the James Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House March 19, 2020 in Washington, DC.
Chip Somodevilla | Getty Images
“But who knows?” Trump said. “I hope it’s true.”
During an interview Wednesday on CNBC’s “Fast Money,” Hayman Capital Management founder Kyle Bass said that referring to the virus as the “Wuhan flu” or other terms noting its Chinese origin is warranted because of a long-standing practice of popularly naming pandemics after their perceived point of origin, such as the Spanish flu and West Nile virus.
“If we start naming diseases after numbers, we’re never going to remember what kind of disease it is,” Bass said.
He said the Chinese government has “propagandized” by asking people to refer to the current outbreak as COVID-19 or coronavirus.
“We can call it whatever we want to call it. I’m not going to call it what the Chinese government wants me to call it,” Bass said.
Earlier Wednesday, when asked about Trump calling the coronavirus the Chinese virus, Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of World Health Organization’s emergencies program, said, “Viruses no know borders and they don’t care about your ethnicity, the color of your skin or how much money you have in the bank.”
“So it’s really important we be careful in the language we use lest it lead to the profiling of individuals associated with the virus,” Ryan said.