White House counselor Kellyanne Conway on Wednesday defended President Donald Trump’s use of the phrase “kung flu” to describe the coronavirus, reversing course after blasting the phrase weeks ago as “highly offensive.”
Conway told reporters gathered outside the White House that Trump used the phrase to highlight the virus’ origin in China.
“My reaction is that the president has made very clear he wants everybody to understand, and I think many Americans do understand, that the virus originated in China,” Conway said. “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.”
Asked in March by the press about reports of White House staffers using the term, Conway demanded that reporters give the names of the staffers allegedly saying “kung flu.”
“Of course it’s wrong,” Conway said at the time. “That’s highly offensive, so you should tell us all who it is.”
When asked about her previous denunciation of the term, Conway said on Wednesday that the president was not surrounded by yes-men.
“I speak to the president daily, on a number of different topics,” Conway said. “We don’t always agree on everything.”
The president first labeled coronavirus as “kung flu” in public last weekend at a rally in Tulsa, Okla.
“I can name ‘kung flu,’ I can name 19 different versions of names,” Trump said. “Many call it a virus, which it is. Many call it a flu, what difference?”
Last night at an event in Phoenix, Trump again said the term when prompted by the crowd, eliciting loud cheers.
Experts say Trump’s use of the term could lead to a spike in anti-Asian American discrimination in the United States. Advocacy groups have found anti-Chinese rhetoric during the pandemic is connected with racist acts against Asian Americans.