Some right-wing media personalities are stigmatizing Chinese people by attempting to rebrand coronavirus with terms like “the Wuhan virus” or even “the yellow peril,” even though the World Health Organization named it COVID-19 in part specifically to avoid anti-Chinese stigmatization.
On March 6, Fox & Friends Weekend co-host Pete Hegseth helped Secretary of State Mike Pompeo attempt to replace the name “coronavirus” with “the Wuhan virus,” referencing the Chinese city that first experienced a major outbreak. Hegseth defended the term as “an accurate way to depict where it's coming from” and suggested it demonstrates “the vulnerabilities the president has talked about for a long time in an interconnected world where we're dependent on a geopolitical adversary.” He also said we should be "rejecting the globalists who say that's the way it has to be.”
Andrew Klavan, an attention-seeking host for The Daily Wire, took the trend even further and declared that he was going to call COVID-19 “the yellow peril” because “when the media is talking about racism, you know that Trump is obviously doing a good job.”
Fox Business host Lou Dobbs, a favorite of President Donald Trump, declared on March 9 that “we should probably call it ‘the Wuhan virus’ so that they get full credit for their contribution to global public health. … We do refer to it as ‘Wuhan virus’ on this program quite often."
The New York Times reported on March 10 that conservative politicians, including Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), have joined the trend of attempting to rename the disease “Wuhan virus,” “the Chinese coronavirus,” or something similarly racialized -- directly contradicting guidance from the World Health Organization.
The WHO released more stringent guidelines on naming new human infectious diseases in 2015, for the express purpose of minimizing “unnecessary negative effects on nations, economies and people.” Branding a new and already named coronavirus as “the yellow peril” or “Wuhan virus” is a textbook example of highlighting the “unnecessary negative effects” the WHO was trying to avoid.
Responding to concerns about these racist terms, Fox’s Tucker Carlson -- who has presented COVID-19 as “The China Threat” -- complained that “people are dying of a plague, and your concern is xenophobia?” He defended the phrase “Wuhan virus” as a “perfectly accurate term” and mocked people for accurately characterizing it as racist.