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Elaine Chao responds to Trump’s racist attacks on her Asian-American heritage

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Former Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao made a rare public remark about former President Donald Trump — whose cabinet she served — criticizing his string of racist attacks targeting her and other Asian Americans.

The former president’s most recent post attempted to link Chao and her husband, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), to the classified documents found in President Biden’s office at the Penn Biden Center in Washington.

“Does Coco Chow Have Anything To Do With Joe Biden’s Secret Documents Being Sent And Stored In Chinatown?” Trump posted on Truth Social on Monday. “Her husband, the Old Broken Crow, is VERY close to Biden, the Democrats and of course China.”

In a statement, Chao said: “When I was young, some people intentionally misspelled or pronounced my name. Asian Americans worked hard to change that experience for the next generation. He doesn’t seem to understand that, which is much more about him. says more than ever about Asian Americans.

Politico was the first to report Chao’s statement.

Wednesday’s statement is the latest split between Trump, who announced his third bid for the presidency in November, and a key Republican Party insider.

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Trump spokesman Steven Cheung, who did not immediately respond to The Washington Post’s request for comment, told Politico, “People need to stop feigning outrage and engaging in controversies that only exist in their heads.”

Chao served all four years of Trump’s presidency as transportation secretary before announcing her resignation following the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol by a mob of his supporters.

Chao’s father, James SC Chao, founded a successful international shipping company. She immigrated to the United States from Taiwan at the age of 8 without being able to speak English. She graduated from Harvard Business School before working as a transportation banker. She also served as a White House fellow, on the Peace Corps, boards of directors and think tanks.

In 2001, Chao became the first Asian-American woman to be appointed to a cabinet post, serving as Secretary of Labor under George W. Bush for eight years.

McConnell initially did not support Trump’s 2016 candidacy, but joined the party’s standard bearer as he clinched the nomination. The two men developed a working relationship that resulted in tax cut legislation and the confirmation of a bevy of judicial appointments, but the alliance was broken after the attack on the Capitol and a string of election losses that the senator essentially blamed on Trump.

Trump posted a racist interpretation of Chao’s last name in a social media post in October, after McConnell helped pass legislation to prevent a government shutdown. In that post, Trump also said that McConnell “has a DEATH WISH!”

Before that, Trump called Chao “crazy” and said McConnell helped her “get family rich in China!”

Chao has largely avoided responding to Trump and urged journalists not to quote his inflammatory rhetoric. The “media is constantly repeating his racial slurs,” Chao told CNN in December. So he’s trying to trick us. He says all sorts of outrageous things, and I don’t feel like answering them all.’

McConnell also made a rare and sharp critique of Trump that month, telling NBC News that some of the mid-term Republican losses were a result of the candidates Trump promoted. McConnell added, “I think the former president’s political clout has declined.”

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But Chao was not the only focus of Trump’s ostensibly racist remarks about Asian Americans.

As the coronavirus pandemic ramped up in the United States and the world in March 2020, Trump publicly referred to it as the “Chinese virus.” Trump’s use of the phrase “Chinese virus” on social media was associated with a spike in anti-Asian hashtags, according to a study co-authored by a California epidemiology professor.

At a June 2020 campaign rally, he added another racist nickname to the mix, this time calling covid “kung flu.”

“The fact that he got the mob up in the air like that was just chilling,” Chris Lu, a Chinese-American who was cabinet secretary in the Obama White House, said that summer. “In that primal desire to stand out from the crowd and get that validation that he wants, he went to this place that has such a bad impact on Asian Americans in general and Asian American children in particular. It’s a joke for him, but not for us.”

In November 2022, Trump attacked Governor Glenn Youngkin (R-Va.), writing on social media that the last name of the Republican, who is being talked about as a potential Trump challenger for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, “sounds Chinese, doesn’t it? ?”

Former Maryland Governor Larry Hogan (right) said Trump’s comment — which was incorrect, Youngkin is not Asian — was “racist” and “Asian hate”.

Chao’s comments on Wednesday are in stark contrast to her tenure in the Trump administration, during which she supported the president even during some of his most tumultuous moments. In August 2017, she sat by the president’s side in the lobby of Trump Tower, ostensibly visiting New York to discuss infrastructure. Trump said she did a “fantastic job.”

But those comments became infamous when Trump deviated from the topic to discuss far-right violence that had engulfed Charlottesville days earlier, saying a group of white supremacist protesters included “very fine people” and that the blame for the violence lay with “both sides.” .

Liz Goodwin contributed to this report.

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