The nation's largest wire service is pressuring reporters to adopt the vocabulary of liberal activists in its coverage of racial issues, going so far as to add the obscure term "AAPI" to its style guide.
Alien to most Asians, "AAPI"—short for "Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders"—reflects the Associated Press's commitment to adopting the language of left-wing activists. Although no physical style book will be released this year, an email from the AP emphasized several major changes in 2021. They include "new additions [that] relate to Asians, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders," such as the introduction of the term "Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders" and the acronym "AAPI," which the AP claims "is widely used by people within these communities."
The AP did not respond to a request for comment.
The AP's email promoted the Stop AAPI Hate movement, a left-wing organization that tracks domestic hate crimes against Asians. The AP claims without evidence that the recent uptick in hate crimes against Asian Americans stems "from the coronavirus pandemic that originated in China." The Stop AAPI Hate movement, founded by academics at San Francisco State University and a group called Chinese for Affirmative Action, encourages the creation of "Ethnic Studies [departments to help] teach students the sources of this racism and promotes racial empathy and solidarity."
Although the AP claims "AAPI" is popular within Asian communities, the Washington Free Beacon could find little evidence it was used in any mainstream publications prior to the last few years. The New York Times, for example, used the term just once in 2018, when it referred to the research group AAPI Data in a story inspired by the film Crazy Rich Asians.
Similarly, the Free Beacon could not locate the term "AAPI" in any AP story prior to 2013, when the outlet wrote a story titled "Asian groups, White House seek better race data." Another story, from 2016, quotes a Republican National Committee spokesman as using the term "AAPI." The piece's authors later write, "Nearly 4 million Asians voted in the 2012 presidential election." The rule changes urge journalists to "avoid using Asian as shorthand for Asian American."
Former president Obama signed an executive order early in his first term establishing the "President's Advisory Committee on AAPIs." The term never made mainstream popularity until this year, according to a Google Trends review of search popularity. Washington, D.C., which is just over 4 percent Asian, searched for the term more than any state in the country.
Prior to publication, the Free Beacon spoke with numerous Asian Americans, none of whom was familiar with the term until a year ago. None of them has ever used it in conversation before.
"I have never once used or heard the term 'AAPI' and neither has anyone else who grew up Asian in America," a popular political commentator and journalist told the Free Beacon. "The only time I've used the phrase is to laugh my ass off at the white liberals who invented it."
Other recommendations highlighted by the AP style book include a warning against using "words that suggest pity." Instead of writing a person is "battling cancer," reporters should opt for "has cancer." On May 9, the AP ran a story about a "26-year-old Auburn native who died in August 2020 after years of battling cancer." The phrase "battling cancer" has been used by the outlet at least five times in the last year.
Critics of the AP, an outlet that once prided itself on objectivity and fairness, have noted a simmering leftward shift in recent years, particularly on identity issues favored by activists. In March, the AP called for not using the words crisis and surge to describe the record number of migrants at the southern border. Questions also remain over the AP’s relationship with the Islamic terrorist organization Hamas in light of a recent Israeli airstrike on the outlet's offices in Gaza.