- On Sunday night, Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) announced on Twitter that he and his staff would self-quarantine after coming into contact with an individual who tested positive for COVID-19 at CPAC.
- Gosar quickly came under fire for the tweet in which he referred to the coronavirus as the "Wuhan virus."
- Critics say the use of the term, singling out the Chinese city where the outbreak began, is racist and ignorant.
- As the coronavirus sweeps the globe, Asian people have reported experiencing more racism and xenophobia with the spread of the disease both abroad and in the US.
- Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.
After coming into contact with an individual who tested positive for COVID-19, the disease associated with the coronavirus, at the Conservative Political Action Conference last month, US Rep. Paul Gosar announced on Twitter that he and his staff would self-quarantine.
While many praised the Arizona representative — along with and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex) — for taking precautionary measures against the novel virus, others have lambasted Gosar for referring to the coronavirus as the "Wuhan virus."
"Most people call it the coronavirus. Some call it Covid-19. But only the most ignorant and racist among us would call it the Wuhan virus," the CEO and founder of Cool Quit tweeted in response to Gosar's tweet.
Gosar's tweet ignited a heated debate about whether the phrase "Wuhan virus," which singles out the Chinese city at the center of the coronavirus outbreak, is inherently racist.
Fellow US Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif), MSNBC's Chris Hayes and American journalist Molly Jong-Fast were just two of many who called out the Republican congressman on Twitter for using the term "Wuhan virus."
"Calling #COVIDー19 the Wuhan Virus is an example of the myopia that allowed it to spread in the US. The virus is not constrained by country or race. Be just as stupid to call it the Milan Virus," Lieu quipped on Twitter.
However, others quickly defended the Republican representative, pointing out that several media outlets had previously referred to the disease in a similar fashion.
"Newsflash… There are THOUSANDS of entries of mainstream news outlets including NBC, referring to 'Wuhan Virus,' as well as ASIAN media itself & top medical institutions calling it Wuhan Virus," conservative pundit Michelle Malkin tweeted.
In response to the overwhelming backlash, Gosar doubled down on using the term "Wuhan virus," defiantly using the term repeatedly and claiming his critics were simply "snowflake Leftists who think everything is racist" on Twitter.
"Just astoundingly ignorant to have all major media refer to it as #WuhanVirus for months but somehow, today, you've decided that's #racist. If you think this virus cares about your race you probably work for or watch MSNBC," Gosar retorted on Twitter.
Gosasr also claimed that people on the left were spreading fake information that COVID-19 was a "hoax," and insinuated that President Donald Trump and his allies had never doubted the "existence or persistence" of the novel virus.
In fact, President Trump called the virus a "hoax." And GOP politicians and conservative pundit Rush Limbaugh, who was recently awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, previously aired a widely-debunked conspiracy theory that the coronavirus was a leaked Chinese biological weapon and erroneously claimed the virus was nothing more than a "common cold" being "weaponized" against Trump.
Although Gosar stood by calling the disease the "Wuhan virus" on Twitter, a spokesman for the Arizona congressman told The Washington Post that he did not "did not have some sinister undertone or meaning." In an official statement from Gosar's office on Sunday, the official designation "COVID-19" was used instead.
Media outlets have shifted their language as the virus spread beyond China's borders
The debate comes as people of Asian descent have experienced increased discrimination in the wake of the novel virus. As the coronavirus swept across the globe, infecting more than 11,000 people in over 100 countries, racism and xenophobia have spread with the infectious disease. Members of the Asian diaspora have reported more incidents of being racially discriminated and isolated at school, work, and other public places.
In the early days of the coronavirus outbreak, many media outlets, including Business Insider, referred to the disease as the "Wuhan coronavirus."
However, the World Health Organization later designated "COVID-19" as the official name for the disease, NPR reported. WHO offered guidelines in 2015 on naming illnesses and recommends avoiding the use of names that refer to specific groups of people, places, or professions to prevent stigmatizing those included in the name.
Since then, Business Insider and other news organizations have taken measures to stop using labels and images when reporting on the coronavirus that could be construed as discriminatory.
However, some politicians, including Gosar, have resisted using the new nomenclature for the coronavirus although the virus has spread far outside Wuhan, China. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo ignored pleas from Beijing to stop referring to the disease as the "Wuhan virus," rising tensions between the US and China in the midst of the outbreak, the South China Morning Post reported.
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