An elderly woman wearing a face mask rides an escalator at a subway station in Beijing on February 18, 2020. - The World Health Organization has warned against a global over-reaction to the new coronavirus epidemic following panic-buying, event cancellations and concerns about cruise ship travel, as China's official death toll neared 1,900 on February 18. (Photo by WANG ZHAO / AFP) (Photo by WANG ZHAO/AFP via Getty Images)
Coronavirus outbreak leading to racism against Asians
02:17 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

The US House of Representatives on Thursday passed a resolution condemning anti-Asian sentiment amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The final vote was 243-164, with 14 Republicans joining their Democratic colleagues.

Though the resolution is nonbinding, House Democrats said they hoped it would show support for the Asian community and send a message that such bigotry would not be tolerated.

“Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, Asian Americans have been forced to endure demeaning and disgusting acts of bigotry and hate, consisting of everything from verbal assaults to physical attacks,” Democratic Rep. Grace Meng of New York, who introduced the resolution, said in a statement after its passage.

“The House needed to take a strong and public stand against this appalling intolerance, discrimination, and violence that has taken place all across the country during this public health crisis, and today it did just that,” she added.

The resolution calls on “all public officials to condemn and denounce any and all anti-Asian sentiment in any form” and says that “use of anti-Asian terminology and rhetoric related to COVID-19, such as the ‘Chinese Virus’, ‘Wuhan Virus’, and ‘Kung-flu’ have perpetuated anti-Asian stigma.”

While the resolution doesn’t name any individuals, Democrats called out the White House during the House debate Thursday and alluded to President Donald Trump’s and their Republican colleagues’ use of the terms.

Trump, some GOP lawmakers and administration officials have continued using terms like “the Chinese virus” or “the Wuhan virus,” even after the World Health Organization and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provided the official terminology for the virus in February. WHO has advised not to use geographic locations in naming diseases because it creates a stigma.

Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi said Thursday on the House floor that as an Asian American man, “this is deeply personal and offensive to me.”

“When people, including those in the White House, refer to Covid-19 as the Chinese virus or the Kung-flu, they encourage bigotry and discrimination against Asian Americans,” the Illinois Democrat said during debate on the resolution.

Republicans fired back, saying they condemn all forms of racism and anti-Asian sentiment, and they accused Democrats of using the resolution as a vehicle to attack Trump. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican, called it a “ridiculous resolution” and a waste of time that could be spent passing coronavirus relief.

One GOP lawmaker who initially signed on as a co-sponsor in April retracted his support for the resolution. Republican Rep. Bill Posey of Florida said he thought he was joining a “good faith effort to protect Asian Americans.”

“I’m more than saddened to see that this resolution and today’s debate is being used for nothing more than to malign and vilify the President of the United States,” Posey said, adding that he would not be part of a “partisan exercise.”

Republican Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio called out the media for using the terms condemned in the resolution and a Democratic-led House Foreign Affairs subcommittee for including “Wuhan virus” in a hearing notice early this year, around the time the virus was first detected.

“You used to be able to say … the West Nile virus, the Zika virus, German measles, Spanish flu. Not today. Not today. They’ll attack you if you don’t say it the way they want you to say it. And this is dangerous. You can’t say China virus today, and tomorrow who knows what it will be?” Jordan said. “… Somehow it’s anti-Asian bias. I think it’s more to do with the fact that we’re seven weeks from an election.”

The subcommittee’s chair, Democratic Rep. Ami Bera of California, acknowledged that it had used the term “Wuhan virus” for a coronavirus hearing, but added, “We also learned that as soon as we started to see instances of racism, violence against Asian Americans, that was a mistake. We stopped using that term.”

The House resolution cites incidents of violence against Asian Americans this year amid the pandemic, including a teenage boy in Los Angeles County who was beaten up by bullies who accused him of having the coronavirus and a family of four in Texas stabbed while trying to buy groceries.

A similar resolution was introduced in the US Senate by Democratic Sens. Kamala Harris of California, Tammy Duckworth of Illinois and Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, all of whom are Asian American.

This story has been updated with a statement from Rep. Grace Meng.