ABC's Cecilia Vega implies Trump 'Chinese virus' references incite racial harassment

President defends label, because virus 'comes from China'

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Flagging reporters for crossing the line between fact and opinion
(Just the News)
Last Updated:
March 21, 2020 - 2:48pm

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

With the Neutral Zone Infraction, Just the News tries to do its part to maintain the line between fact and opinion in American journalism by blowing the whistle each week on an egregious example of slanted coverage by reporters. This week's offender: ABC News' Cecilia Vega.

At a Wednesday press conference Vega asked President Trump why he uses the term "Chinese virus" to refer to the coronavirus, saying that many people consider the term racist.

President Trump defended his terminology, rebuffing the idea that the language is racist.

"Why do you keep calling this the Chinese virus?" Vega queried. "There are reports of dozens of incidents of bias against Chinese-Americans in this country. Your own aide, Secretary Azar, says he does not use this term, he says ethnicity does not cause the virus. Why do you keep using this?"

"Because it comes from China," the president said while Vega continued speaking.

"A lot of people say it's racist," Vega pressed.

"It's not racist at all, no not at all," the president replied. "It comes from China, that's why. I want to be accurate." 

"And no concerns about Chinese-Americans in this country?" Vega questioned. She added a question that seemed to be directed at "aides behind" the president at the conference, asking them, "Are you comfortable with this term?"

"I have great love for all of the people from our country," the president said. "But as you know, China tried to say at one point, maybe they stopped now, that it was caused by American soldiers. That can't happen. It's not gonna happen, not as long as I'm president. It comes from China."

There was nothing inherently biased in Vega's initial question ("Why do you keep calling this the Chinese virus?") However, she went on to implicitly accept two very iffy premises.

The first premise, that identifying a virus that originated in China as a "Chinese virus" is ipso facto "racist" is a stretch unsubstantiated by any reporting. For example, mainstream U.S. media outlets themselves made free use of terms like "Chinese coronavirus," "Wuhan virus," and variants until a recent shift in nomenclature. 

Second, Vega cites no specific examples to substantiate her still-more far-fetched implied premise that the president's references to the "Chinese virus" have incited Americans to scapegoat fellow Americans of ethnic Chinese descent in acts of racial bias or harassment.

As of publication time, ABC News had not responded to requests for comment, but this story will be updated to reflect their response, if any.