The Corner

Politics & Policy

On Coronavirus, the Truth Can’t Be Racist

A woman walks past a portrait of Chinese President Xi Jinping as the country is hit by the coronavirus, Shanghai, China, March 12, 2020. (Aly Song/Reuters)

As is often the case, there is an element of trolling to the president’s word choice when he refers to the novel coronavirus as the “Chinese virus” or the “China virus.” But as far as we know, the virus did indeed originate in Wuhan. The truth is an absolute defense to a charge of racism, and reporters who waste everyone’s time grilling the president on this matter as though this is the time when they will finally get him to admit to racism are also guilty of trolling.

It never seems to occur to the press corps overall just how much damage they are doing to their collective reputation when its members (continue to) behave in such an obviously petty manner, as some did at a White House briefing today. We’ve all seen the surveys that tell us that pretty much no one except Democrats trusts the mainstream media anymore. Only 36 percent of independents trust the media. Only 13 percent of respondents trust the media “a great deal,” according to Gallup. It’s been 15 years since trust in the media reached even 50 percent. Why continue to alienate so many potential customers?

If Trump is guilty of playing to his base, the media are equally guilty of playing to theirs. The more serious the news story, the more people pay attention to the news. And when large numbers of people figure to be sickened and die, the greater the obligation to the media to shed their silly obsessions and be serious. So far, they aren’t rising to the occasion.

“But he started it!” isn’t a good excuse for the many instances in which the media have reacted to Trump by imitating his bad habits. And in this case, Trump isn’t even wrong, albeit he may be choosing his words with the intent to be inflammatory.

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