A top adviser to Joe Biden repeatedly described the Coronavirus as “Wuhan virus” earlier this year, around the same time the former vice president was castigating political opponents for doing likewise.
Ronald Klain, who led the Obama administration’s response to the Ebola outbreak in 2014 and is now an adviser to Biden’s presidenital campaign, took to social media in January to give his thoughts on the burgeoning pandemic. In a series of posts, Klain openly referred to the contagion as the “Wuhan virus,” a term many, including his boss, would later claim has racial and xenophobic overtones.
“The level of concern over the ‘Wuhan virus’ is escalating quickly here in the US and globally,” Klain wrote on Jan. 20th. “Is the Trump admin equipped to manage this? Lots of great career people in the agencies — but something like this requires leadership at the top.”
In another tweet sent the following day, Klain again referred to the virus by the city in China from which it originated, when warning that a public health crisis lay ahead.
“We don’t yet know how large a the ‘Wuhan’ Coronavirus poses,” Klain wrote in one tweet. “But sooner or later, a pandemic is coming our way, and the world is not ready.”
We don't yet know how large a the "Wuhan" Coronavirus poses. (@WHO meets Wed to decide on a Pub Health Emerg!)
But sooner or later, a pandemic is coming our way, and the world is not ready.
A good time to re-up my piece on what needs to be done…https://t.co/9CgLe2NI3m
— Ronald Klain (@RonaldKlain) January 21, 2020
The level of concern over the “Wuhan virus” is escalating quickly here in the US and globally. Is the Trump admin equipped to manage this? Lots of great career people in the agencies — but something like this requires leadership at the top. https://t.co/VL9rIVujcU
— Ronald Klain (@RonaldKlain) January 20, 2020
At the time, no one seemed to take much offense at Klain’s use of the term, neither in the media nor on the Biden campaign. In fact, in the days following the tweets, Klain played a role in helping the former vice president’s campaign author an op-ed accusing Trump and his administration of not being prepared to deal with the looming threat.
Three days after the op-ed was published, Trump opted to suspend travel between the U.S. and China. Although the travel ban was implemented to stem the risk of the contagion spreading, Biden and his team began alleging any mention of China when describing the virus was xenophobic and potentially even a “racial slur.”
“The coronavirus doesn’t have a political affiliation. It will not discriminate on national origin, race, or zip code. It will touch people in positions of power, as well as the most vulnerable in society,” the former vice president said recently in response to Trump referring to the pandemic as a “Chinese virus.”
“This is no time for Donald Trump’s record of hysteria and xenophobia-hysterical xenophobia and fear mongering to lead the way instead of science,” Biden added.
The tough rhetoric, though, did not seem to apply to Klain. Not only does he continue as an adviser, but Klain has also taken a more public role in leading the campaign’s Coronavirus response. Earlier this week, the former self-described “Ebola czar” was prominently featured in a campaign video describing how the former vice president would respond to the pandemic.