'Don't ask me, ask China': Trump abruptly ends press meet after spat with Asian American reporter over US death toll
The irked president countered an Asian American reporter to ask her question to China before clashing with another reporter and walking back into the Oval Office
President Donald Trump's clashes with reporters at his White House press briefings related to the coronavirus are well-known. On Monday, May 11, too, there was no exception to the rule as Trump lashed out at a female Asian American reporter who asked him a question about the high death rate caused by the pandemic.
The matter turned so ugly that Trump, who suggested the reporter put her question before the Chinese, cut off the press meet in the Rose Garden when another woman reporter with whom he had bickered with earlier tried to ask a question.
It all happened when CBS News' Weijia Jiang asked Trump the reason for emphasizing that the US is leading in Covid-19 testing when a high rate of infection still existed.
"Why does that matter? Why is it a global competition to you if every day Americans are still losing their lives and we are still seeing more cases every day?" Jiang, a Chinese-American reporter who had a clash with Trump on another occasion in the past, asked him.
"Maybe that's a question you should ask China," the president said, reiterating that his administration is still angry with the Chinese and believe that the pandemic outbreak happened because of the Asian power's carelessness.
"Don't ask me. Ask China that question, okay," Trump said, adding: "When you ask them that question, you make it a very unusual answer."
The US has over 1.3 million confirmed coronavirus cases and a death toll of 80,000 plus, the highest for any country in the world.
Trump then moved on from Jiang to CNN's Kaitlan Collins seeking the next question. "Yes behind you please," he said. But before asking her own question, Collins asked Jiang whether she wanted to follow it up with Trump.
The focus was back on the Trump-Jiang conversation and the reporter asked the president why she was asked about China specifically, hinting at a racial bias without mentioning China in her question.
"Sir, why are you saying that to me — specifically," Jiang, born in China's Xiamen, asked. "I'm not saying it specifically to anybody. I'm saying that to anyone who would ask a nasty question like that," Trump replied this time. Jiang objected to his words saying her question was not a tasty one.
Trump then moved on to another reporter asking: "Anyone else? Please go ahead. In the back." Collins then stepped in saying she had two questions but Trump was not ready to take them.
"No, it's okay. We'll go over here. Next," he said, making Collings say that he had picked her earlier. "I did. And you didn't respond," Trump said, giving a clear hint that he did not like Collins putting the focus back on Jiang.
"I just wanted to let my colleague finish," the CNN reporter said, showing Jiang. Trump didn’t bother, however, and cut off the press conference abruptly and walked back into the Oval Office.
Trump said in the past that neither Jiang nor Collins was a "Donna Reed" and the White House staff tried to shift Collins to the back during a briefing in April.
Last month, Trump asked Jiang to keep her voice down when she asked him why he did not warn the people of America about the pandemic spreading as early as February.
Pointing at Trump's own comment that he was angry that the information about the coronavirus was not shared with the US earlier, Jiang asked the president: "Many Americans are saying the exact same thing about you, that you should have warned them the virus was spreading like wildfire through the month of February, instead of holding rallies with thousands of people. Why did you wait so long to warn them?"
Trump at that moment wanted to know which channel Jiang was with and said he had banned flights coming in from China late January. "Chinese nationals... by the way, not Americans who were also coming in from China," Jiang responded and Trump advised her to be "nice and easy".
Trump's frequent clashes with the media at his coronavirus press briefing have made even his aides wary and he has been advised to make an appearance at the briefings only if some special announcement had to be made.