House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy on Tuesday drew heavy criticism after he referred to COVID-19 in a tweet as the "Chinese coronavirus," with Democrats demanding he apologize and delete it.
Some lawmakers and State Department officials have used the term "Chinese coronavirus" or "Wuhan virus," over the past couple of days, and critics argue that tying the virus to an ethnicity is racist.
"Everything you need to know about the Chinese coronavirus can be found on one, regularly-updated website," McCarthy, a California Republican, tweeted on Monday, with a link to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, days after controversy over the characterization began.
Rep. Grace Meng, D-N.Y., responded on Twitter, saying she’s "embarrassed" to be McCarthy’s colleague after his "disgusting" coronavirus reference.
"I am shocked and dismayed that the GOP Leader in the House of Representatives has referred to the coronavirus as the ‘Chinese coronavirus’," Meng wrote in a statement.
She added, "This labeling of the illness is embarrassing, disrespectful, offensive, and downright disgusting. It is shameful. The minority leader must immediately apologize.”
California Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris also slammed McCarthy’s remarks, tweeting: "Calling it the 'Chinese coronavirus' isn't just racist, it's dangerous and incites discrimination against Asian Americans and Asian immigrants.”
She added, "@GOPLeader, delete this tweet -- now. It's beneath the office of a member of Congress, let alone a party leader.”
During a Tuesday hearing on novel coronavirus -- CDC director Robert Redfield says the virus is no longer bounded by China therefore it would be inappropriate to call it "Chinese coronavirus.”
While it originated in Wuhan, China, Redfield says, “99 percent of the cases that occurred last night, occurred outside of China."
"This isn’t China. Right now the epicenter, the new China, is Europe,” he said.
Twitter criticism of the top GOP lawmaker's comments continued on Tuesday:
McCarthy is not the only lawmaker over the past week to tie the virus to the region where the strain originated. Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., also came under fire after calling it the "Wuhan Virus," as he announced his intent to self-isolate.
"I am announcing that I, along with 3 of my senior staff, are officially under self-quarantine after sustained contact at CPAC with a person who has since been hospitalized with the Wuhan Virus," Gosar tweeted on Saturday. "My office will be closed for the week."
Gosar then defended himself, questioning when it became racist to call it "Wuhan Virus."
"Just astoundingly ignorant to have all major media refer to it as #WuhanVirus for months but somehow, today, you’ve decided that’s #racist," he wrote.
As of Tuesday afternoon, McCarthy had not removed the tweet or responded to the criticism.