Ted Lieu Raises Donald Trump's 'Kung Flu' Rhetoric After Atlanta Spa Shootings

Democratic Representative Ted Lieu has drawn attention to former President Donald Trump's rhetoric about the COVID-19 pandemic following the deadly spa shootings in Atlanta, Georgia.

Lieu, who represents California's 33rd congressional district and is Asian American himself, cited the former president's use of the term "kung flu" to describe the virus, saying Trump's use of language had exacerbated discrimination.

At least eight people were killed in three shootings at spas in Atlanta on Tuesday night and six of the victims have been identified as women of Asian descent. A 21-year-old man is in custody and police are investigating the motive.

Lieu initially focused on the deaths and the possibility that the shootings were a hate crime. Many of his Democratic colleagues made similar comments.

"According to this report, 6 of the 8 murder victims in the Atlanta area mass shooting are Asian women," Lieu tweeted.

"Was this a hate crime? We need more evidence. But we do know the alleged murderer targeted three locations where the victims would disproportionately be Asian women."

Lieu later shared a tweet from actor and comedian Mindy Kaling mourning the loss of life and highlighting what she called "the normalizing of anti-Asian hate speech in the past year."

"The former President used racist phrases like Kung Flu that inflamed discrimination against the Asian American community," Lieu wrote in response.

"Officials that continue to use ethnic identifiers in describing the virus are part of the problem. Please instead be a part of the solution. #StopAsianHate."

Trump frequently referred to COVID-19 as the "Chinese virus" or the "Wuhan virus." The disease was first reported in Wuhan, a central Chinese city, and Trump sought to link the virus to his frequent criticisms of China as an adversary of the U.S.

He used the term "kung flu" for the first time on June 21, 2020 at a campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

A combination of "flu" and "kung fu," an umbrella term for Chinese martial arts, the phrase was quickly criticized for having racist and anti-Asian connotations.

"It has more names than any disease in history. I can name kung flu. I can name 19 different versions of names," Trump told the crowd.

Before the June 21 rally, Trump had already defended his use of phrases like "Chinese virus", telling reporters in March, 2020 that his choice of language was "not racist at all. It comes from China. I want to be accurate."

Atlanta police have said Robert Aaron Long is the suspect in all three shootings but have not yet revealed the suspected motivation for the killings.

Newsweek has asked Trump's office for comment.

Democratic Representative Ted Lieu of California
Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) questions Intelligence Committee Minority Counsel Stephen Castor and Intelligence Committee Majority Counsel Daniel Goldman during House impeachment inquiry hearings before the House Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill December 9, 2019 in Washington, DC. Lieu has criticized anti-Asian rhetoric in the wake of deadly shootings in Atlanta, Georgia. Doug Mills-Pool/Getty Images