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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 comment about former President Donald Trump – in whose cabinet she served – and criticizing his series of racist attacks against her and other Asian Americans.

The former president’s recent letter 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 .

“Has Coco Chow anything to do with Joe Biden’s classified documents being mailed and kept in Chinatown?” Trump posted on Truth Social 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 used to misspell or pronounce my name on purpose. Asian Americans have worked hard to change that experience for the next generation. He doesn’t seem to get that, which says a lot more about him than it ever will say about Asian Americans.”

Politico was the first to report Chaos’ testimony.

Wednesday’s statement is the latest break between Trump, who announced his third run 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 should stop feigning outrage and engage in controversies that only exist in their heads.”

Chao served as Secretary of Transportation for all four years of Trump’s presidency before announcing her resignation after a crowd of his supporters attacked the US Capitol on January 6, 2021.

Chaos’ 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 then graduated from Harvard Business School before working as a transportation banker. She has also served on White House grantees, the Peace Corps, corporate boards and think tanks.

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

McConnell did not initially support Trump’s candidacy in 2016, but joined the party’s flag-bearer in securing the nomination. The two men developed a working relationship that led to tax cut legislation and the confirmation of a number of judge appointments, but the alliance was dissolved after the attack on the Capitol and a string of election losses for which the senator largely blamed Trump .

Trump released a racist interpretation of Chaos last names in a social media post in October after McConnell helped pass legislation to avert a government shutdown. In that post, Trump also said McConnell had “a DEATH WISH!”

Trump previously called Chao “insane” and said McConnell “helped her family get rich in China!”

Chao has largely avoided responding to Trump, urging journalists not to quote his inflammatory rhetoric. The “media keeps repeating his racist taunts,” Chao told CNN in December. “And so he’s trying to upset us. He says all sorts of outrageous things and I don’t care to reply to any of them.”

McConnell also offered a rare and scathing criticism of Trump this month, telling NBC News that some of the Republicans’ medium-term losses were due to candidates Trump promoted. McConnell added, “I think the former president’s political clout has waned.”

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But Chao wasn’t the only focus of Trump’s seemingly racist remarks about Asian Americans.

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

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

“The fact that he got the crowd so excited was just terrifying,” said Chris Lu, a Chinese-American who served as cabinet secretary in the Obama White House, this summer. “He went to this place with this truly primal desire to stand out from the crowd and get the validation he wants, which has such dire consequences for Asian Americans in general and Asian American children in particular. For him it’s a joke, for us it’s not.”

In November, Trump attacked Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R), writing on social media that the last name of the Republican being touted as a potential challenger to Trump for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024 “sounds Chinese, doesn’t it it?”

Former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) said Trump’s comment – which was wrong, Youngkin is not Asian – was “racist” and “Asian hatred”.

Chaos remarks on Wednesday stand in stark contrast to her tenure in the Trump administration, during which she supported the president through some of his most turbulent moments. In August 2017, she was at the President’s side in the lobby of Trump Tower and visited New York, ostensibly to discuss infrastructure. Trump said she was doing a “fabulous job.”

Those remarks became infamous, however, when Trump veered off topic to talk about far-right violence that engulfed Charlottesville days earlier, saying that a group of white supremacist protesters included “very fine people” and that blame for the Violence lies with “both sides”.

Liz Goodwin contributed to this report.

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