Trump called the coronavirus a 'foreign virus,' part of a clear strategy to blame the pandemic on other places like China and Europe

Trump called the coronavirus a 'foreign virus,' part of a clear strategy to blame the pandemic on other places like China and Europe
Trump coronavirus
  • President Donald Trump described the novel coronavirus as a "foreign virus" in his Oval Office address on Wednesday, which announced a travel ban on 26 European countries.
  • His words echo those of his top allies in Congress and the media, who have in recent days blamed China for the outbreak.
  • On Tuesday, Trump also tweeted that a border wall between the US and Mexico was needed "more than ever" to stop the spread of the virus - a claim that the CDC's director has rebutted.
  • Trump has long sought to pin the blame for America's problems on migrants and foreign countries.
  • The World Health Organization has warned people not to link the outbreak to a specific nationality or region. Top Democrats also said attempts to link the disease to a specific nationality are racist.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

President Donald Trump referred to the novel coronavirus as a "foreign virus" and imposed a travel ban on 26 countries in an apparent bid to link the pandemic to his hardline anti-migrant policies.


He made the comments in an Oval Office address on Wednesday night, in which he banned the travel into the US from 26 European countries.

"This is the most aggressive and comprehensive effort to confront a foreign virus in modern history," the president said in the televised address.

He added that the illness "started in China and is now spreading throughout the world."

"I am confident that by counting and continuing to take these tough measures, we will significantly reduce the threat to our citizens and we will ultimately and expeditiously defeat this virus."


The president and top allies in Congress and the media had in recent weeks sought to blame the illness on foreign countries, and claiming that Trump's America First isolationist policies are vital for stopping it spreading further.

The focus for many of the attacks has been China, where the virus emerged in early December.

On Tuesday the president shared a tweet by conservative youth activist Charlie Kirk, who branded the disease the "China virus" and called for the construction of Trump's US-Mexican border wall to be hastened to halt its spread.

"Going up fast. We need the Wall more than ever!" the president added, commenting approvingly on the message.

At a February 28 campaign rally in North Carolina, the president also claimed that "the Democrat policy of open borders is a direct threat to the health and wellbeing of all Americans. Now, you see it with the coronavirus."


Business Insider has not found evidence of a person traveling across the US-Mexican border transmitting the disease in the US.

Trump's claims were also directly rebutted by Robert Redfield, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), who told lawmakers Tuesday he had not seen any evidence that physical barriers were effective in stopping the outbreak.

On Monday, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy was criticized by Democrats after describing the disease as "Chinese coronavirus" in a tweet.

Sean Hannity, the Fox News host who serves as an informal adviser to the president, told viewers on Wednesday: "China ... they've got to be held responsible for the spread of this deadly disease. Their dishonesty, their governments secrecy, even outright lies."

It followed days of coverage on the network, where Fox News hosts including Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham also sought to blame China for the spread of the illness.


The World Health Organization has urged politicians, public officials, and media organizations not to foment xenophobia by linking the illness to a specific region or ethnicity. CDC director Redfield also agreed.

Donald Trump

Trump on Wednesday shifted the target to Europe, blaming the EU specifically for the US' problems combatting the spread of the coronavirus.

"The EU failed," declared Trump. "Smart action today will prevent the spread of the virus tomorrow ... We are at a critical time in the fight against the virus."

He later claimed that Europeans visiting the US had "seeded" clusters of coronavirus infection in the US.

Most of the 1,200 cases in the US are linked to Americans who have returned from abroad infected with the illness, or US citizens who have spread the illness within the country, The Washington Post reported.


The new travel restrictions do not apply to Americans traveling to the US from Europe, the White House later clarified.

China and the EU have long been the focus of attacks by Trump and his allies, who have accused the bloc of seeking to economically exploit the US.

Top Democrats have hit back at Trump's attempts to blame foreigners for the spread of the virus.

In response to Trump's calling for the construction of a border wall, Democratic presidential frontrunner and former Vice President Joe Biden tweeted: "A wall won't stop a virus. Racism won't stop a virus. Do your job."