Asian neighbors pen letter of fear to Ohio’s lieutenant gov

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Dozens of Asian members of the suburb Ohio’s lieutenant governor lives in penned a
letter to him Wednesday, citing their concerns with his "Wuhan virus" tweet and their fears
for the safety of their children.
"Lt. Governor Husted, your choice of words has only raised the anxiety and fear that Asians and
Asian Americans in Upper Arlington are currently experiencing," the letter obtained by the local
NBC affiliate read.
"Our children have been targeted for bullying and abuse in the district well before the start of the
COVID-19 pandemic, but that abuse has increased significantly in the last 14 months and has reached
levels that have brought news media attention to our doorsteps," the letter continued. "Our
children are the classmates, friends, and neighbors of your children."
The letter to the lieutenant governor was signed by nearly 70 members and families of the Asian community
in Upper Arlington, a suburb of Columbus.
It came in response to a March 26 tweet where Husted linked to an article in which Robert Redfield, the
ex-director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said, without citing evidence, that he
believed the virus originated in a lab in Wuhan.
"So it appears it was the Wuhan Virus after all?" Husted tweeted Friday from his personal
account.
His intention with the tweet, Husted said in an interview with The Associated Press earlier on Wednesday,
was to criticize the Chinese government.
"I was just pointing out that this is an international crisis, in my opinion, that the Chinese
government is responsible for and I wanted an independent investigation," he said. "So I
wasn’t trying to accomplish anything that the political left or political right thinks that I might have
from that tweet other than to draw attention to the issue."
The claim that COVID-19 originated in a lab in Wuhan has been scrutinized in the past year by health
officials, including the leading U.S. infectious disease specialist, Dr. Anthony Fauci.
The claim was further muddied when a draft obtained by The AP on Monday and formally published Tuesday
from the World Health Organization’s inquiry said it was "extremely unlikely" that the virus
emerged accidentally from a Chinese laboratory and was likely spread from animals to humans.
Some replies on the original post supported Husted for standing up to China. More numerous were critical
replies from Twitter users who said such rhetoric feeds into hate and violence against Asian Americans
and Pacific Islanders.
The organization Stop AAPI Hate released a report last month that showed it received more than 3,800
reports in the U.S. of episodes ranging from shunning and verbal harassment to assault from March 2020
to Feb. 28 of this year. Many of the confrontations were linked to misconceptions around the virus.
A gunman walked into three spas on March 16 in the Atlanta area, killing eight people, six of them Asian
women, though police have yet to designate the shootings as a hate crime. The shock was still fresh when
a man was caught on surveillance video Monday in New York City kicking an Asian American woman and
stomping on her face while, police say, he shouted anti-Asian slurs.
For Democratic State Sen. Tina Maharath, the first Asian American woman elected to the Ohio General
Assembly, Husted’s tweet was the second time that week she heard an elected official call the
coronavirus that first emerged in Wuhan, China, the "Wuhan virus," she said.
Maharath said Husted and others are following the lead of former President Donald Trump, who sometimes
used overtly racist terms to refer to the virus.
"When you say those things, such as attach locations or ethnicities to the disease, it creates
racial profiling, and then it turns into xenophobic behavior," Maharath said. "And when
leaders with that kind of power repeat those terms in confidence and double down on it, it leads to more
hate crimes."
Two days before Husted’s tweet, Republican Ohio Sen. Terry Johnson mentioned the "Wuhan virus"
on the chamber floor.
"We called it the Wuhan virus because that’s where it came from," Johnson said. "We always
called viruses by where they came from, but now we don’t even do that because of all this political
correctness."
In the past century, international health experts have intentionally avoided naming diseases after the
city or region of origin because of potential stigma. In 2015, the World Health Organization issued
guidelines that discouraged the use of geographic locations, animals or groups of people in naming
diseases.
But Husted remained firm in his AP interview.
"On Twitter, there were a lot of people who are from what I will call the cancel culture, who
immediately assumed that there was a racial element to the tweet," Husted said, "which there
wasn’t any."
His neighbors, however, believe Husted’s words matter, regardless of intention, and offered an invitation
to "meet personally to discuss the issues of violence and hatred towards Ohio’s Asian and Asian
American citizens."
"As Lt. Governor, you are uniquely positioned to represent and protect the interests and safety of
all Ohioans," the letter stated. "As a resident of Upper Arlington, and our Lt. Governor, you
are uniquely situated and have the power to take action to protect the families of our community. To
protect all of our families."
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This story has been corrected to show that the former CDC director’s name is Robert Redfield, not Robert
Redford.
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Farnoush Amiri is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative.
Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to
report on undercovered issues.