COLUMBUS, Ohio — Dozens of Asian American residents of the suburb that Ohio’s Republican lieutenant governor calls home penned a letter to him Wednesday, citing their concerns over a tweet he sent referring to the “Wuhan virus” and the fears they have for the safety of their children because of such comments.
“Lt. Governor Husted, your choice of words has only raised the anxiety and fear that Asians and Asian Americans in Upper Arlington are currently experiencing,” the letter obtained by the local NBC affiliate read.
Jon Husted has been Ohio’s second highest-ranking official since 2019.
“Our children have been targeted for bullying and abuse in the district well before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, but that abuse has increased significantly in the last 14 months and has reached levels that have brought news media attention to our doorsteps,” the letter continued. “Our children are the classmates, friends, and neighbors of your children.”
The letter to the lieutenant governor was signed by nearly 70 members and families of the Asian community in Upper Arlington, a suburb of Columbus.
It came in response to a March 26 tweet where Husted linked to an article in which Robert Redfield, the ex-director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said, without citing evidence, that he believed the virus originated in a lab in Wuhan.
“So it appears it was the Wuhan Virus after all?” Husted tweeted Friday from his personal account.
His intention with the tweet, Husted said in an interview with The Associated Press earlier on Wednesday, was to criticize the Chinese government.
“I was just pointing out that this is an international crisis, in my opinion, that the Chinese government is responsible for and I wanted an independent investigation,” he said. “So I wasn’t trying to accomplish anything that the political left or political right thinks that I might have from that tweet other than to draw attention to the issue.”
The claim that COVID-19 originated in a lab in Wuhan has been scrutinized in the past year by health officials, including the leading U.S. infectious disease specialist, Dr. Anthony Fauci.
The claim was further muddied when a draft obtained by The AP on Monday and formally published Tuesday from the World Health Organization’s inquiry said it was “extremely unlikely” that the virus emerged accidentally from a Chinese laboratory and was likely spread from animals to humans.
Some replies on the original post supported Husted for standing up to China. More numerous were critical replies from Twitter users who said such rhetoric feeds into hate and violence against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.