House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) claimed on Sunday that her late February visit to San Francisco's Chinatown did nothing to understate the threat of the coronavirus pandemic and argued that her trip even helped prevent a worse outbreak.
Fox News Sunday's Chris Wallace had asked the speaker whether she was culpable for a delayed national response to the virus. Pelosi has alleged in recent weeks that President Trump's initial downplaying of the virus lost valuable time for the federal government to adequately respond to the crisis and needlessly cost Americans their lives.
"If the president underplayed the threat in the early days, Speaker Pelosi, didn't you as well?" Wallace asked.
"No," Pelosi responded. "What we were trying to do is end the discrimination, the stigma that was going out against the Asian-American community. And in fact, if you will look, the record will show that our Chinatown has been a model of containing and preventing the virus," she said.
She added that her "confidence" in Chinatown residents prompted her trip, saying it was intended to "offset some of the things that the president and others were saying about Asian Americans and making them a target."
"Forgive me," Wallace said. "Don't you think that when you're out walking without any masks—I understand this is February, not April, when this happened—and saying that there's no threat [and] it's perfectly safe there, weren't you also adding to this perception that there wasn't such a threat generally?"
"No, I was saying that you should not discriminate against Chinese Americans as some in our administration were doing," she said.
It is unclear what discriminatory actions Pelosi was referring to.
President Trump enacted travel restrictions on China on Jan. 31 as a public health measure to stop the global spread of coronavirus.
Health and Human Services secretary Alex Azar announced in a White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing that the president would be "temporarily suspending the entry into the United States of foreign nationals who pose a risk of transmitting the 2019 novel coronavirus." Those posing a risk were defined as all foreign nationals who had been to China in the last 14 days.
The speaker visited her home city's Chinatown district on Feb. 24 and urged residents to go out and patronize the neighborhood's businesses. She also emphasized the importance of being "unified with our community."
"We think it's very safe to be in Chinatown and hope that others will come," she said, adding that she encouraged people to be "careful" but to "come join us."
CORRECTION 4/20/20, 12:13 p.m.: This article was updated to reflect that Pelosi's visit to Chinatown was not intended to protest the president's travel ban, but rather to take a public stand against discrimination toward Asian Americans.