Dr. Leana Wen Shares Racist Abuse She's Faced While Talking About COVID-19

by Cassandra Stone
Originally Published: 
Dr. Leana Wen Shares Racist Messages She's Received Since Talking About Coronavirus

Dr. Leana Wen often appears on news programs to discuss the coronavirus, and faces lots of racism for being Chinese

Dr. Leana Wen, a practicing ER physician and former Health Commissioner for the City of Baltimore, says she has received backlash over her ethnicity following her appearances on-air to discuss the coronavirus pandemic. She recently shared her experience with blatant racism following President Donald Trump’s Tulsa rally, in which he called the pandemic the “Kung flu.”

In an appearance during Anderson Cooper 360 on CNN last night, Dr. Wen highlighted just some of the horrible, racist messages she receives. “I get messages telling me I’m a ‘bat eater,’ telling me to go back to my own country, saying that I should admit it is ‘my people’ that is causing this virus.”

“This is the first time I’m talking about this, because it just hasn’t seemed like something I wanted to talk about before, but it’s important to,” she explains. She says that anytime she’s been featured on CNN, or asked to speak during a town hall, or explained how to stay healthy during the pandemic on national television, she receives an onslaught of hate-filled messages.

She says she’s heard from fellow Asian medical professionals that they too have faced prejudice during the pandemic. Some doctors and nurses have told her that patients have spit on them or refused treatment.

“Now all of us, as health professionals, we do our jobs. We move on. We do our best. We internalize this. We don’t let this bother us, as much as we can, but I think, the fact is, this doesn’t have to be this way,” Wen said. She mentions that many state and local leaders have stepped up to publicly condemn racism and xenophobia as it pertains to this virus, but that the president of the United States isn’t doing the same.

Dr. Wen says she wishes Trump would use the proper medical terminology for the coronavirus, Sars-CoV-2, and the disease, COVID-19. But at his latest rally in Tusla (which was, blessedly, trolled by Tik-Tok-using teens), he most certainly made it a point to not use the correct verbiage.

Because of course.

After being called out for perpetuating racism by dubbing it the “Kung flu,” the White House doubled down on Trump’s ignorance. “It’s a fair thing to point out as China tries to ridiculously rewrite history, to ridiculously blame the coronavirus on American soldiers,” White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters during a news briefing, totally gaslighting every reporter in the room and refusing to engage in an actual dialogue about her boss’s racism.

Because of course.

The greater issue, Dr. Wen says, is that so many people believe Trump’s dangerous lies.

“There are millions and millions of people across America for whom the President is the most credible messenger,” Dr. Wen says, after Cooper noted that while many people are “numb” to what Trump spews, many people take his word as a license to be racist. “And they will use his words, and unfortunately this will impede our efforts when it comes to public health. I worry about those patients who are not following their doctors’ or nurses’ advice because they’re Asian-American. I worry about the use of these words that go against all of our public health standards.”

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