CORONAVIRUS

Grassley can't see why China upset by calling COVID-19 'Chinese virus'

Coronavirus name divides Iowa's Grassley, Ernst

Sen. Joni Ernst and Sen. Chuck Grassley watch the action during the Class 2A championship game March 7 between North Lin
Sen. Joni Ernst and Sen. Chuck Grassley watch the action during the Class 2A championship game March 7 between North Linn and Osage at the girls’ high school state basketball tournament in Des Moines. Ernst on Wednesday took gentle issue with Grassley calling the coronavirus the “Chinese virus.” (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

In a rare display of disagreement, Sen. Joni Ernst politely took issue with her senior colleague’s social media reference to the coronavirus as the “Chinese virus.”

Others will call it what you want, Iowa’s junior senator said Wednesday, but “we know what we call it — it’s coronavirus.”

Ernst was asked about the terminology after her fellow Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley tweeted that he didn’t understand “why China gets upset bc we refer to the virus that originated there the “Chinese virus” Spain never got upset when we referred to the Spanish flu in 1918&1919.”

Although media have been attributing coronavirus to China for several weeks, the Trump administration and others who refer to it as a “Chinese virus” have been criticized for promoting xenophobia.

Ernst rejected that label.

“We don’t want to call it — or I don’t want to call it one thing or another. It’s the coronavirus,” she said. “We’re focused on COVID-19. So we can just call it that.”

A Grassley spokesperson said the senator was responding to the Chinese Communist government “spreading false propaganda and absurd conspiracy theories blaming the U.S. military for the coronavirus.”

Citing several news sources, the spokesperson said “China is attempting to shield itself from criticism of covering up the gravity of the coronavirus and silencing whistleblowers who tried to warn the world. Despite what the communist Chinese government may want, there’s no hiding that the coronavirus originated in Wuhan, China.

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The tweet was part of Grassley’s advocacy for increased transparency on the part of the Chinese government, which Tuesday expelled U.S. journalists from three major news organizations.

Regardless of what others call the virus that causes COVID-19, Ernst said her priority is “the very human element of this virus and the fact that it is affecting so many Iowans.”

“I am focused on making sure that we are doing the right thing to protect our Iowa families, our small businesses and everyone that’s going to be impacted by this horrible outbreak,” she said.

Also, the origin of the so-called Spanish flu has been traced to the state of Kansas.

Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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