On March 19 2020, a number of tweets purportedly showed a close-up of United States President Donald Trump’s prepared remarks on the progress of a coronavirus pandemic, where he apparently used a marker to cross out the “corona” of “coronavirus” and add “Chinese” in its place:
Close up of President @realDonaldTrump notes is seen where he crossed out "Corona" and replaced it with "Chinese" Virus as he speaks with his coronavirus task force today at the White House. #trump #trumpnotes pic.twitter.com/i2mvBhHCUa
— Looposhi (@22loops) March 19, 2020
In the March 19 2020 tweet above, the user wrote:
Close up of President @realDonaldTrump notes is seen where he crossed out “Corona” and replaced it with “Chinese” Virus as he speaks with his coronavirus task force today at the White House. #trump #trumpnotes
“Today” in that context was also March 19 2020. At 10:28 AM, @WhiteHouse streamed President Trump’s live briefing with its Coronavirus Task Force, resulting in a one-hour, 21-minute-long clip:
LIVE: Press Briefing with Coronavirus Task Force https://t.co/uvFZaWbcME
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) March 19, 2020
CNBC reported on the briefing shortly after it aired, describing how Trump described COVID-19 as a “Chinese virus,” not a coronavirus:
President Donald Trump emphatically blamed China for the coronavirus pandemic [on March 19 2020], and again made a point of using the term “Chinese virus.”
“The world is paying a very big price for that they did,” Trump said, referring to his claim that Chinese officials did not fully share information sooner about the coronavirus outbreak after it began in China.
“It could have been stopped right where it came from, China,” Trump said at a White House news conference.
He argued that American officials would have been able to act faster if China’s government had fully shared information about the outbreak, which began around the city of Wuhan.
“It would have been much better if we had known about this a number of months earlier,” the president said … in [then] recent days, Trump [had] repeatedly called the coronavirus the “Chinese virus,” and did so again at the beginning of his news conference.
PBS also highlighted Trump’s rhetoric:
“It’s a war,” he said. “I view it as a, in a sense, a wartime president. It’s a very tough situation.”
No longer able to run for reelection on a healthy economy, he was taking on the mantle of a wartime leader after played down the severity of the crisis for weeks. The president also employed more nativist, us-vs-them rhetoric at the briefing, continuing his recent habit of referring to the coronavirus as the “Chinese virus,” which has been sharply criticized as racist. “
It’s not racist at all,” Trump said. “It comes from China, that’s all.”
Although the images frequently circulated without links or with creative additions, they originated from a legitimate source: Washington Post staff reporter Jabin Botsford. Botsford shared the photographs shortly after 2PM on March 19 2020, zooming in on the portion of prepared remarks where “Corona Virus” could be seen.
On the fourth of six visible lines, “Corona” was marked through with a black line; “CHINESE” was handwritten in in its place:
Close up of President @realDonaldTrump notes is seen where he crossed out "Corona" and replaced it with "Chinese" Virus as he speaks with his coronavirus task force today at the White House. #trump #trumpnotes pic.twitter.com/kVw9yrPPeJ
— Jabin Botsford (@jabinbotsford) March 19, 2020
Clips of the President of the United States saying “Chinese virus” in place of “coronavirus” were commonplace, and the photograph circulated without context in many iterations. However, the image was originally shared by photojournalist Botsford a few hours after the coronavirus briefing on March 19 2020 ended, and the image was authentic, not manipulated, and reflected in the rhetoric.