A Missouri House representative has called on a Republican colleague to apologize for calling COVID-19 the “Chinese virus” several months ago.
Rep. Brian Seitz, who represents District 156, was presenting a bill that addresses public school lessons on gender, sexuality and race when Rep. Shamed Dogan, of District 98, brought up his use of the remark.
Seitz’s legislation states that educators may not teach that “an individual, by virtue of the individual’s race or sex, bears responsibility for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race or sex.”
“In the spirit of your bill, I’m wondering if you would be willing to apologize for your past remarks concerning the quote-unquote China virus,” Dogan asked Seitz during the House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee hearing on Wednesday.
Seitz used “Chinese virus” during a floor debate in March, according to St. Louis Post-Dispatch. In response to Dogan, he argued that it had nothing to do with the scope of the bill being presented.
However, Dogan disagreed and cited the surge in anti-Asian incidents, which many attribute to former President Donald Trump’s use of the same term.
“What you’re saying in this bill is that we shouldn’t be holding individuals responsible for actions committed by other people, but when you use that rhetoric, whether intentionally or not, that’s how people perceive it — is that Chinese people are responsible for the spread of that virus,” Dogan said.
Seitz responded saying he appreciates Dogan’s point and will take his comments “under consideration.” But Dogan doubled down and demanded an apology.
“Can you apologize for that, though?” Dogan asked, citing the incident involving news anchor Michelle Li, who received an anti-Asian voicemail on New Year’s Day. Li works at KSDK in St. Louis County, parts of which Dogan represents.
Dogan informed the House floor of the voicemail, in which a viewer complained about Li for mentioning dumpling soup while reporting about New Year’s Day food. To this, Seitz said: “For the record, I love dumplings, I love black-eyed peas and I love cornbread.”
Seitz went on to defend his use of the remark, comparing it with Spanish flu and German measles. He argued that such usage does not intend to denigrate people, but simply point out the origin of the pathogen.
“That’s the way people talked 100 years ago. Why would you not just refer to it as the coronavirus?” Dogan said in response. “Just take it back man. How hard is that?”
He then suggested that Seitz, being incapable of apologizing, is in no position to talk about racial issues.
“When you don’t apologize for that you have no credibility talking about racial issues and saying you want everybody to unanimously support this bill. You’re not going to get that if you don’t stop what you did before,” Dogan said in an elevated voice. “Please!”
Seitz, for his part, replied, “I appreciate that. Thank you.”
Shortly after, the exchange was posted on Twitter by Heartland Signal, newsroom of the Chicago-based WCPT. Some users commended Dogan for his actions, while others criticized Seitz’s arguments.
“Who’s the person calling him out? He did a great job taking down this racist BS (especially about the increase in hate crimes) and deserves recognition,” one user wrote.
“Jesus Christ, Brian Seitz. What a f*cking racist,” another commented.
Other Missouri House representatives supported Dogan. Rep. Phil Christofanelli, another Republican, agreed that the disease should be called COVID-19 but pointed out that it does not absolve the Chinese government of criticism for its handling of the outbreak.