For example, in one since-deleted tweet to her 394,000 followers, pro-Trump former congressional candidate DeAnna Lorraine said that “China must pay for giving Trump COVID,” and swore that “we will have justice.”
Another Twitter user with 114,000 followers blamed Chinese President Xi Jinping for trying to assassinate Trump.
The anti-China rhetoric used by the Trump administration and its supporters throughout the pandemic has left Asian Americans vulnerable to racist attacks, researchers have previously found. Fear, hatred and misinformation online has led to verbal assaults, boycotts of Asian businesses and sometimes violence. A coalition of Asian American groups, along with San Francisco State University, reported this summer that 2,120 hate incidents against Asian Americans have taken place since March.
President Trump has been at the forefront of pushing a narrative that responsibility for the virus lies with China. In the first presidential debate on Sept. 29, Trump said the covid-19 crisis was “China’s fault,” and referred to the virus as the “China plague.”
“From the birther scandal to lies about immigrants to his attempt to blame China for his own failure to contain the coronavirus, Donald Trump has built his presidency on perpetuating conspiracy theories and racism,” said Rep. Judy Chu, (D-Calif.), chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, in a statement.
She warned that rhetoric in reaction to the president‘s followers blaming Asians or Jews for problems can lead to violence.
They “not only doubled down on the use of slurs like ‘Chinese virus’ and ‘Kung flu,’ they also denied the impact their own words were having on innocent Asian Americans who have been terrified by the anti-Asian hate we have witnessed throughout this pandemic,” Chu said.
The ADL conducted its research by collecting tweets containing the keywords “trump,” “melania” and “first lady,” pairing them with the terms “china virus,” “plague,” “kung flu” or “Wuhan.” It also included mentions of @realdonaldtrump, @potus and @flotus. The civil rights group used those parameters to collect conversations specifically tied to Trump’s diagnosis.
They then compared the volume of mentions in the three days following Trump’s Oct. 2 tweet announcing his diagnosis, and compared it to a baseline of data collected from five hours before the diagnosis.
While the ADL did not cull through all 2.7 million tweets, its researchers analyzed the results from numerous Twitter users with large followings to observe the sentiment associated with the keywords.
Separately, the group also detected a rise in conspiracy theories and anti-Semitic comments following the president’s diagnosis.
One of the most common conspiracy theories is that a “New World Order” or “NWO“ will surface run by secretive actors who either gave Trump the virus or plan to assassinate him during his illness, the report said. Other tweets made anti-Semitic claims such as Trump is a “crypto Jew” or a Zionist agent, or that he is a pawn subject to Jewish interests.