On Wednesday's Deadline: White House on MSNBC, fill-in host John Heilemann joined in on the pettiness of some journalists claiming that it is "racist" for President Donald Trump to accurately acknowledge that the coronavirus infections first appeared in China by calling it the "Chinese virus."
Even though admitting the source of the virus is important to try to prevent future such outbreaks, Heilemann charged that President Trump using those words in a press conference was "nakedly racist and obviously racist and blatantly racist." He also asserted that Trump wants to be seen as waging war against a virus that he can "pin on" a "nonwhite population."
At 4:30 p.m. Eastern, Heilemann set up the segment by introducing a clip of President Trump from earlier:
JOHN HEILEMANN, FILL-IN HOST: Trump is not just waging war here, in his formulation, not just waging war against a virus, he's waging war against a Chinese virus. Let's take a listen to how he talked about this today. To a greater degree than he has in the past, he put that kind of front and center where this virus comes from in Donald Trump's view of the world.
Then came a series of clips showing the President denying that the term "Chinese virus" is racist when asked by journalists. Setting up a question to New York Times White House correspondent Peter Baker, Heilemann reacted:
HEILEMANN: The President says, "No, this is not racist at all," when, of course, it's nakedly racist and obviously racist and blatantly racist. I ask you: Is this not the most predictable thing in the world, that, for Donald Trump, it wouldn't be enough to go to war against a virus, it would be all but better if the war could be waged a non -- if the virus could be pinned on a nonwhite population and a population of a country that is one of our economic adversaries that plays straight down the middle of his sort of xenophobic, populist foreign policy? This kind of seems like a golden opportunity for it to play to -- to rip a page out of the Trump political playbook and just apply it to this pandemic by creating a Chinese virus?
Baker suggested that President Trump is trying to exploit xenophobia as he began his response:
PETER BAKER, NEW YORK TIMES: Yeah, I think it goes to two aspects we've seen over the last three years of the Trump presidency. One, of course, is that there are threats outside of our borders, and therefore we need to close them as much as we can, whether it be, you know, drug dealers and rapists and criminals and gang members, and now, of course, disease, the idea that America is surrounded by enemies need to wall themselves off, to some extent, protect ourselves.
But, toward the end of his analysis, the Times reporter admitted that there was some value in pressuring China on the issue:
BAKER: That's not to say that the Chinese government couldn't have handled this better -- they obviously have, you know, have plenty of things they could scrutinize and criticize. In fact, that's one reason why they're kicking out my colleagues and our compatriots in the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post because we have tried very hard to scrutinize how China handled this, and to tell the truth about their approach. But that's not what the President is talking about here. What he's talking about here, I think, is a threat from the outside that we can all rally against as Americans, in his view.