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


Former Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao posted a rare public comment on former President Donald Trump – whose cabinet she served – and slammed his series of racist attacks targeting her and other Americans in Asian origin.

The former president’s most recent missive 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.

“Did Coco Chow have anything to do with sending and storing Joe Biden’s classified documents in Chinatown?” Trump posted on Truth Social on Monday. “Her husband, the 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 ever say about Asian Americans.

Politico was the first to report Chao’s statement.

Wednesday’s statement is the latest rift between Trump, who announced his third presidential run in November, and a key Republican Party insider.

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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 transportation secretary for the four years of Trump’s presidency before announcing his resignation following the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol by a mob of his supporters.

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

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

McConnell did not initially support Trump’s candidacy in 2016, but aligned himself with the party standard bearer once he secured the nomination. The pair developed a working relationship that produced tax cut legislation and confirmations of a slew of judicial appointments, but the alliance was broken after the attack on the Capitol and a series of election losses. that the senator essentially blamed on Trump.

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

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

Chao largely avoided responding to Trump and urged reporters not to quote his inflammatory rhetoric. The “media continually repeats his racist taunts,” Chao told CNN in December. “And so, he tries to skyrocket us. He says all kinds of outrageous things, and I don’t make it a point to answer any of them.

McConnell also posted a rare and pointed critique 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 former president’s political influence has diminished.”

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But Chao hasn’t been the only focus of Trump’s seemingly racist remarks about Asian Americans.

As the coronavirus pandemic amplified in the United States and around 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 spike in anti-Asian hashtags, according to a study co-authored by a California epidemiology professor.

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 pissed off the crowd so much was just scary,” said Chris Lu, a Chinese American who served as Cabinet Secretary in the Obama White House that summer. “In this really overriding 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 for American children. of Asian origin in particular. It’s a joke for him but not for us.

In November, Trump attacked Virginia Governor 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 Republican presidential nomination in 2024, “Sounds Chinese, doesn’t he?”

Former Maryland Governor Larry Hogan (right) said Trump’s comment – which was untrue Youngkin is not Asian – was ‘racist’ and ‘Asian hate’.

Chao’s remarks on Wednesday stand in stark contrast to her tenure in the Trump administration, in which she supported the president even during some of his most tumultuous times. In August 2017, she was alongside the president in the lobby of Trump Tower, visiting New York ostensibly to discuss infrastructure. Trump said she was doing a “fabulous job.”

Yet those remarks became infamous when Trump veered off topic to discuss the far-right violence that had engulfed Charlottesville days before, saying a group of white supremacist protesters included “very good people” and that the responsibility for the violence lay with “both sides”. .”

Liz Goodwin contributed to this report.