Elaine Chao responds to Trump’s racist attacks on her Asian American heritage

Former Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao has issued a rare public comment about former President Donald Trump, in whose cabinet she served, criticizing his series of racist attacks directed at her and other Asian Americans.

The most recent missive from the former president attempted to link Chao and her husband, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), to classified documents found in President Biden’s office at the Penn Biden Center in Washington.

“Coco Chow has anything to do with classified Joe Biden documents being shipped to and stored in Chinatown?” Trump posted on Truth Social on Monday. “Her husband of hers, Old Broken Crow, is VERY close to Biden, the Democrats, and of course, China.”

In a statement, Chao said: “When I was young, some people deliberately misspelled or mispronounced my name. Asian Americans have worked hard to change that experience for the next generation. He doesn’t seem to understand that, which says a lot more about him than it will say about Asian Americans.”

Politico was first to report Chao’s statement.

Wednesday’s statement is the latest break between Trump, who announced his third run for president in November, and a key member of the Republican Party.

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Trump spokesman Steven Cheung, who did not immediately respond to The Washington Post’s request for comment, told Politico: “People should stop feigning outrage and engaging in controversies that only exist in their heads.”

Chao served as Secretary of Transportation for all four years of the Trump presidency before announcing her resignation following the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol by a mob of her supporters.

Chao’s father, James SC Chao, founded a successful international shipping company. He immigrated to the United States from Taiwan at the age of 8 without knowing how to speak English. She later graduated from Harvard Business School before working as a transportation banker. She has also worked as a White House Fellow, in the Peace Corps, corporate boards, and think tanks.

In 2001, Chao became the first Asian American woman to be appointed to a Cabinet position, serving as George W. Bush’s Secretary of Labor for eight years.

McConnell did not initially support Trump’s candidacy in 2016, but sided with the party’s standard-bearer once he secured the nomination. The two men developed a working relationship that produced tax cut legislation and the confirmation of a series of judicial appointments, but the alliance broke down after the attack on the Capitol and a series of electoral losses that the senator essentially blamed on Trump.

Trump published a racist interpretation of Chao’s last name in a social media post in October, after McConnell helped pass legislation to prevent the government shutdown. In that post, Trump also said that McConnell “has a DEATH WISH!”

Before that, Trump called Chao “crazy” and said McConnell helped his “family get rich in China.”

Chao has largely avoided responding to Trump and urged reporters not to quote his inflammatory rhetoric. The “media continually repeats its racist taunt,” Chao told CNN in December. “And so, he’s trying to get on our nerves. He says all kinds of outrageous things, and I don’t intend to respond to any of them.”

McConnell also delivered a rare and scathing criticism of Trump that month, telling NBC News that some of the Republicans’ midterm losses were the result of candidates Trump had promoted. McConnell added: “I think the political influence of the former president has diminished.”

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But Chao has not been the only focus of Trump’s apparently racist comments about Asian Americans.

As the coronavirus pandemic spread across the United States and the world in March 2020, Trump publicly referred to it as the “Chinese virus.” Trump’s use of the phrase “Chinese virus” on social media was linked to a rise in anti-Asian hashtags, according to a study co-authored by a professor of epidemiology in California.

At a campaign rally in June 2020, he added another racist nickname to the mix, this time calling Covid the “Kung flu.”

“The fact that he infuriated the crowd so much was just chilling,” said Chris Lu, a Chinese-American who served as a cabinet secretary in the Obama White House that summer. “In that really primal desire to stand out from the crowd and get the affirmation he wants, he went to this place that has such bad consequences for Asian-Americans in general and Asian-American children in particular. It’s a joke for him, but not for us.”

In November, Trump attacked Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R), writing on social media that the last name of the Republican, who is being talked about as a potential challenger to Trump for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, “sounds Chinese, it is not”. that?”

Former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) said Trump’s comment, which was false Youngkin is not Asian, was “racist” and “Asian hate.”

Chao’s comments Wednesday are in stark contrast to his tenure in the Trump administration, in which he supported the president even during some of his most tumultuous times. In August 2017, she stood next to the president in the lobby of Trump Tower, visiting New York ostensibly to talk about infrastructure. Trump said he was doing a “fabulous job.”

However, those comments became infamous when Trump deviated from the topic to speak about the far-right violence that had engulfed Charlottesville days earlier, saying that a group of white supremacist protesters included “very good people” and that blame of the violence fell on “both sides”. .”

Liz Goodwin contributed to this report.

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