Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is calling on Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other State Department officials to stop using the term “Wuhan virus” or “Chinese virus” to refer to COVID-19.
“I am obliged to point out that referring to this global pandemic by anything other than its appropriate, medical names is unhelpful at best, and at worst risks inflaming stereotypes, fear, and xenophobia in the face of a health crisis,” Cardin wrote in a Tuesday letter.
Cardin noted his dual role as the special representative on anti-Semitism, racism and intolerance for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
“The identification of disease with national origin, ethnic group, or religion took on a more sinister character as one of a number of rationalizations for displacement, ethnic cleansing, and even genocide,” he wrote.
Cardin noted that Nazi propaganda films collected at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum blamed Polish Jews for the spread of typhus.
He also pointed to a photo captured by a Washington Post reporter last week that showed the phrase “Corona Virus” was edited to say “Chinese Virus” in the notes for public remarks from President Trump.
“The tone you and your senior staff set for the men and women of the State Department is crucial; U.S. diplomatic credibility abroad must not be compromised by the irresponsible use of the term ‘Wuhan virus,’” Cardin admonished Pompeo.
He asked the secretary to be “mindful” and use “only the recognized names for COVID-19 an the virus that causes the disease: SARS-CoV-2.”