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Video: Trump jabs China’s claim that US Army started coronavirus, not China

President Donald J. Trump, joined by Vice President Mike Pence and members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, delivers remarks at a coronavirus update briefing Sunday, March 15, 2020, in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Andrea Hanks)
March 17, 2020

President Donald Trump responded to an ongoing Chinese rumor that the U.S. Army started the spread of coronavirus during his latest press briefing Tuesday.

A reporter questioned Trump’s repeated description of the novel coronavirus, which first appeared in the Chinese city of Wuhan, as the “Chinese virus” and noted concerns that the term might raise negative racial stigma.

“Well, China was putting out information, which was false, that our military gave this to them,” Trump responded. “That was false, and rather than having an argument I said I have to call it where it came from. It did come from China so I think it’s a very accurate term, but no, I didn’t appreciate that China was saying our military gave it to them. Our military did not give it to anybody.”

The reporter responded that “critics say using that phrase creates a stigma.”

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“No, I don’t think so. I think saying that our military gave it to them creates a stigma,” Trump continued.

The exchange comes just days after Lijian Zhao, the spokesperson and Deputy Director General for the Information Department of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, shared tweets in which he alleged, “It might be US Army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan.”

Lijian’s comments come in spite of information from the World Health Organization (WHO) that the virus was “first reported to the WHO Country Office in China on 31 December 2019.”

The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has also classified the new coronavirus outbreak under the name SARS-CoV-2, and abbreviated to COVID-19. The CDC noted many of the initial cases of coronavirus had some link to a large seafood and live animal market in Hubei, China.

Trump’s comments on Tuesday appeared to encapsulate his response both to the Chinese rumors about the origin of the virus and criticism he has received for describing the virus as foreign in origin and specifically Chinese.

In a recent report, the Washington Post raised the question of whether referring to the new coronavirus by its place of origin is indeed racist. The same publication had previously run with headlines referring to the “Chinese coronavirus.”

Political commentator Drew Holden noted other examples of inconsistent editorial standards by news publications reporting on coronavirus.

The issue of how the coronavirus is described has been an issue of continued debate and had been a trending topic on Twitter for much of Tuesday even before Trump’s comments at the press briefing.