Media Balk at Trump Calling Wuhan Virus 'Foreign'

Acosta: 'Going to come across to a lot of Americans as smacking of xenophobia'

March 12, 2020

President Donald Trump's referral to the Wuhan coronavirus as a "foreign virus" in Wednesday's national address has drawn sharp criticism from members of the media.

CNN White House correspondent Jim Acosta said Trump's language in his Oval Office speech could come off as xenophobic to "a lot of Americans."

"Now, why the president would go as far as to describe it as a foreign virus? That is something we'll also be asking questions about," he said Wednesday. "But it should be pointed out that Stephen Miller, who is an immigration hardliner ... was a driving force in writing this speech. I think it is going to come across to a lot of Americans as smacking of xenophobia to use that kind of term in this speech."

Acosta, however, quoted a CNN article using the phrase "Wuhan Coronavirus" in a tweet on Jan. 23.

A CNN article by Paul LeBlanc addressed Trump's language and said, "The characterization of the global pandemic as a foreign virus aligns with how some Trump allies have described the coronavirus in recent days, which critics have called xenophobic."

"The militaristic, nationalistic language of Trump's speech tonight is striking," New Yorker staff writer Susan Glasser wrote on Twitter. "A 'foreign virus,' keeping out China and Europe. But the virus is already here in America."

CNN national security analyst and former Obama administration official Lisa Monaco connected Trump's rhetoric to his order to restrict travel to the United States from most of Europe.

"I don't think the travel restrictions are the panacea here, nor is labeling it a foreign virus," she said Thursday.

CNN New Day anchor Alisyn Camerota also referenced Trump's words on Tuesday, saying "obviously viruses don't have a nationality."

On CBS This Morning, fill-in anchor Michelle Miller asked White House correspondent Major Garrett what Trump had "accomplished by making this an outsider's problem."

"It is kind of an America-first rhetorical flourish that has nothing to do with public health, safety, or public health communication," Garrett said.

Reporters and pundits live-tweeting Trump's Oval Office address scare-quoted or criticized his use of the term.

Trump's "War Room" Twitter account compiled a montage of CNN and MSNBC figures referring to the coronavirus as a "Wuhan" or "Chinese" virus. The coronavirus's first reported occurrence was in Wuhan, China, in December 2019.

The United States has reported more than 1,300 cases and 38 deaths from coronavirus as of Thursday, with those numbers expected to grow sharply. Now characterized as a pandemic by the World Health Organization, the coronavirus has caused markets to slide over fears of a global economic downturn.