US president Donald Trump has been accused of using racist language after branding the coronavirus pandemic ‘Kung Flu’.
He used the derogatory term, which Asian-Americans and many other people say is racist, speaking to 3,000 supporters at the Dream City megachurch in Arizona last night.
Trump is looking to build momentum on the campaign trail after a poor turnout in Tulsa, Oklahoma at the weekend.
Referring to the killer virus, which originated in the Mainland Chinese city of Wuhan, he said: “It’s got all different names. Wuhan. Wuhan is catching on. Coronavirus, right? Kung flu, yeah?
“Kung flu. COVID-19. COVID. I said what’s the nineteen? COVID-19. Some people can’t explain what that 19? 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?
“‘They call it the China – as opposed to China. The China. I’ve never seen anything like it. But here’s the story, we are going to be stronger than ever before, and it’s going to be soon.”
He also used the term in Tulsa at the weekend, as well as “Chinese virus” to refer to COVID-19.
“That name gets further and further away from China, as opposed to calling it the Chinese virus,” he said.
The comments have led White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany to defend his use of the inflammatory term.
“The president does not believe that it is offensive to note that this virus came from China,” she said on Monday.
The poor turnout in Tulsa made his Arizona, a 2020 battleground state, all the more important.
With the Phoenix event, the president hoped to turn attention away from his slumping poll numbers, surging coronavirus infections in huge swathes of the US south and west, and a virus-ravaged economy.
His address featured typical Trump lines, with boasts about television ratings, ridicule of his likely Democratic presidential opponent Joe Biden, and resentment over China’s handling of the coronavirus crisis.
He was said to revel in the energy of a packed venue, where he offered his supporters a dark warning.
“This will be in my opinion the most corrupt election in the history of our country,” he said. “And we cannot let this happen.”
However the Covid-19 pandemic continues to overshadow Trump wherever he goes.
Mayor of Phoenix Kate Gallego made it clear she did not believe his speech could be safely held in her city and urged the president to wear a face mask.
However he has refused to wear a mask in public, instead turning it into a political football against left and right.
Polling suggests Republicans are far less likely to wear face coverings than Democrats, despite health experts’ warnings that it dramatically reduces the risk of transmitting the virus. Few in the crowd at the Students For Trump event donned masks.
Since late May, Arizona has emerged as one of the nation’s most active hot spots for the spread of Covid-19.
Arizona is seeing disturbing trends in several benchmarks, including the percentage of tests that prove positive for the virus, which is the highest in America.
The US state reported a new daily record of nearly 3,600 additional coronavirus cases on Tuesday as it continued to set records for the number of people taken to hospital, in intensive care and on ventilators for Covid-19.
Arizona’s total caseload in the pandemic stands at at least 58,179, with 42 more deaths reported Tuesday, raising the death toll to 1,384.
Despite the dangers Trump on Saturday told thousands of cheering supporters he had asked US officials to slow down testing for the novel coronavirus, calling it a “double-edged sword” that led to more cases being discovered.
He added his actions in blocking travellers from China and Europe had helped save “hundreds of thousands of lives.”
But he said the “radical fake news” media had not given him credit for doing what he called “a phenomenal job” responding to the outbreak.