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Bill Maher Thinks Coronavirus Should Be Called “Chinese Virus” in Latest Offensive Hot Take

This is certainly ... a take.

In last night’s episode of Real Time With Bill Maher, Bill Maher used his “New Rules” segment to go after the politically correct naming battle around COVID-19 and the coronavirus. The virus has been frequently referred to as the Chinese or Wuhan virus, based on its geographic origin.

Maher goes on a rant about how we’ve always named viruses after their places or origin saying, “Scientists, who are generally pretty liberal, have been naming diseases after the places they came from for a very long time … Zika is from the Zika forest; Ebola from the Ebola river. Hantavirus from the Hantan river. There is the West Nile virus and Guinea Worm and Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and of course, the Spanish flu. MERS stands for Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome, it’s plastered all over airports and no one blogs about it.”

But many people, like California Congressman Ted Lieu, are urging the public not to use those names for the virus, as they have inflamed racism and hate towards Asian people worldwide and Asian-American people here at home.

Maher’s straw man argument is essentially this: that overly PC liberals are ignoring the facts of the virus in favor of not hurting anyone’s feelings. And in doing so, we are letting China off the hook, and they will continue to run wet markets and sell exotic meats that scientists the world over agree are a breeding ground for these kinds of diseases.

Should global powers put pressure on China to close (or at least regulate) these markets? Of course, and they already have. The UN’s biodiversity chief has already called for a ban on these markets, but there are larger economic issues at play.

Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, the acting executive secretary of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, released a statement saying

“It would be good to ban the live animal markets as China has done and some countries. But we should also remember you have communities, particularly from low-income rural areas, particularly in Africa, which are dependent on wild animals to sustain the livelihoods of millions of people … So unless we get alternatives for these communities, there might be a danger of opening up illegal trade in wild animals which currently is already leading us to the brink of extinction for some species. We need to look at how we balance that and really close the hole of illegal trade in the future.”

Additionally, the Chinese dictatorship should be held accountable for downplaying the outbreak and silencing scientists.

But doggedly insisting on calling it the “Chinese virus” accomplishes neither of these tasks. It only inflames racism and xenophobia at a time when those issues are already running rampant in society. Maher claims that American can hold two ideas in their head: that we can choose to not be racist while acknowledging the virus’s geographical origins.

But we can also hold these two ideas separately in our head: that we can demand justice and change in China’s wet markets while at the same time not vilifying folks of Asian descent and fueling ignorance and racism. Even HHS head Alex Azar agrees, saying “You’re absolutely right. We must ensure nobody is discriminated against based on ethnicity, … Ethnicity is not what causes the novel coronavirus.”

It’s not overt political correctness to want to protect our Asian-American citizens from racism and hate. Especially at a time when our country is lead by a racist and xenophobic president. This is a public safety issue as well. We’re in dire need of empathy and compassion now more than ever.

(via The Hollywood Reporter, image: screencap/HBO)

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Chelsea was born and raised in New Orleans, which explains her affinity for cheesy grits and Britney Spears. She currently lives in sunny Los Angeles, with her husband and two poorly behaved rescue dogs. She is a former roller derby girl and a black belt in Judo, so she is not to be trifled with. She loves the word “Jewess” and wishes more people used it to describe her.