KEY POINTS

  • Photograph shows "coronavirus" crossed out, replaced with "Chinese virus"
  • Trump has defended calling the disease the "Chinese virus"
  • Critics, officials have said this term is misleading and possibly racist

President Donald Trump came under fire when he referred to the novel coronavirus as the “Chinese virus” during a press conference this week. Now, a photojournalist’s image shows that in the printed text of the president’s statements, Trump had crossed out “coronavirus” and wrote in “Chinese” by hand.

Washington Post photographer Jabin Botsford’s sharp eye caught the easily overlooked detail in a photo he took during the White House presser, sharing it on Twitter.

Trump has faced severe criticism of his attempts to redefine the coronavirus; last week, he referred to the disease as a “foreign virus” and this week has shifted to dubbing it the “Chinese virus.”

Critics have argued that these terms are deliberately racial in nature. Officials at the World Health Organization (WHO) have warned against the use of these names as they could “unintentionally lead to racial profiling.”

“Viruses know no borders and they don’t care about your ethnicity … So it’s really important we be careful in the language we use lest it lead to the profiling of individuals associated with the virus,” WHO executive director of emergencies Mike Ryan said this week.

These concerns seem justified, given recent reports showing that Chinese-owned businesses in American cities have seen a severe drop in their sales, particularly in New York City. There, businesses in Manhattan’s Chinatown have seen profits drop from 30% to 80%; this is believed to be the result of misguided, bigoted links being made between Chinese Americans and the coronavirus.

Trump, however, doesn’t appear to have plans to back down on his usage of the term to describe the coronavirus. When asked about it at a press conference this week, the president explained that calling it the “Chinese virus” isn’t racist because “it comes from from China, that’s why. I want to be accurate.”

Botsford’s photograph shows that those who prepared Trump’s speech were likely aware that use of the term would generate controversy. Even still, the president appears to have to be committed to renaming the coronavirus – going so far as to alter his statements by hand.

Trump promised to announce "major" economic measures Trump promised to announce "major" economic measures Photo: AFP / Brendan Smialowski