White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany struggled on Monday to explain why President Trump keeps calling the coronavirus the “kung flu,” at first claiming he didn’t use the offensive label at all and then arguing the phrase is about the pandemic’s “origin.”
McEnany offered the mixed messages during an at times combative briefing at the White House, in which reporters grilled her over Trump using the “kung flu” moniker while ranting about the pandemic at his Saturday rally in Tulsa.
“He doesn’t,” McEnany said after a reporter asked why the president uses “racist” terminology to describe the virus.
“He is linking it to its place of origin,” she added later on.
But McEnany couldn’t provide more spin once another reporter asked if she disagrees with Kellyanne Conway — Trump’s own White House counselor — who called the “kung flu” phrase “highly offensive” in March.
“The president does not believe it’s offensive that the virus came from China,” she said, refusing to answer the question directly.
Trump drew a wave of criticism after he mused about the “kung flu” during his sparsely-attended Saturday rally.
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Critics say the phrase is deeply offensive and puts Asian-Americans at risk of hate crimes.
“This anti-asian phrase which POTUS used, which I will not repeat, is a good reminder that the president is a full spectrum bigot and if he hasn’t gotten to you yet he eventually will,” tweeted Hawaii Sen. Brian Schatz.
Trump was reportedly furious after only about 6,000 people showed up for his Saturday rally, even though his campaign had boasted about more than 1 million people reserving tickets.
McEnany insisted reports about Trump’s temper were “false.”
“He was very pleased with how the rally went,” she said.