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It’s a stressful time to work in the White House, as a small outbreak leaves contact tracers unsure of how two West Wing staffers contracted the coronavirus. Judging by his performance at Monday’s COVID-19 press conference, the president is taking the workplace anxiety to heart — or his standard behavior toward female journalists and open biases toward Asian and Asian-American reporters just reemerged in the Rose Garden.
It began when CBS News White House correspondent Weijia Jiang, who is Chinese-American, asked Trump about why he appears to consider individual countries’ ability to test for the coronavirus to be a “global competition,” even as the American capacity for testing remains inadequate. “Well, they’re losing their lives everywhere in the world,” he responded. “And maybe that’s a question you should ask China. Don’t ask me, ask China that question, okay?” After a tense pause, Jiang — who reports on the White House, not on foreign administrations — asked the president, “Sir, why are you saying that to me, specifically?” Trump then claimed it was an open comment for “anybody who would ask a nasty question like that.”
While Jiang has yet to remark on the incident, shortly after it aired on CNN, media correspondent Brian Stelter said that “it’s racist to look at an Asian-American correspondent and say ‘Ask China.’ It’s part of a pattern from the president,” which includes a 2018 incident in which he mocked a Japanese reporter and told him to “say hello to Shinzo.”
Jiang’s microphone was turned off as she pressed Trump on her original question, and he moved on to the next reporter, pointing in the direction of CNN White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins, who attempted to ask a pair of questions. “No, that’s okay,” Trump said, hoping to move on from the reporter whom he attempted to humiliate in late April when he directed the Secret Service to move her to a seat in the back of the press briefing room. As Collins made an effort to ask the president her questions, Trump decided to shut the presser down prematurely rather than answer.
Shortly before the conflict over the seating assignment last month, Trump told Collins as she tried to engage him: “Don’t talk to me.” On Monday, he showed that the threat was serious, while revealing yet again how unserious his presidency remains.