Former President Donald Trump has been grabbing headlines recently. It has been witnessed that over the past several months, the leading Republican presidential candidate has launched a series of racist attacks on the wife of the Republican Party’s Senate leader, a woman who once served in his Cabinet.
Donald Trump has been using racist slurs
While former President Donald Trump’s taunts at Elaine Chao — demeaning her as “Coco Chow” or a variation of Mitch McConnell’s “China-loving wife” — have been mostly met with silence from fellow GOP officials, the main target of them is now speaking out.
“When I was young, some people deliberately misspelled or mispronounced my name. Asian Americans have worked hard to change that experience for the next generation,” Chao said in a statement to POLITICO. “He doesn’t seem to understand that, which says a whole lot more about him than it will ever say about Asian Americans.”
Chao’s statement is an extremely rare case of the former Transportation Secretary wading into the political matter that her former boss has laid around her since the end of his administration. It suggests that discomfort with Trump’s anti-Asian rhetoric has reached a new level amid several high-profile shootings targeting Asian Americans.
On at least a half a dozen occasions, Trump has taken to his social media platform, Truth Social, to criticize McConnell’s leadership, and to suggest, among other things, that he is conflicted because of his wife’s connection to China. Last fall, in a message widely viewed by Republicans and Democrats as a threat, he said that McConnell “has a DEATH WISH.”
But the personal attacks on Chao have stood out above the others, both for their overt racism and the relatively little pushback they’ve received. McConnell and his team have not responded. And on the rare occasion where she has been asked about them, Chao has pleaded for reporters to not amplify the remarks. Other Republicans have dismissed the attacks as Trump just being Trump. The former president “likes to give people nicknames,” Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) said in October on CNN.
Chao immigrated to the U.S. when she was a child from Taiwan and is one of six daughters of Ruth Mulan Chu and James S.C. Chao, the founder of the Foremost Group, a large shipping company based in New York. She went on to graduate from Harvard Business School and served in multiple Republican administrations, and was the first Asian American woman in a presidential Cabinet as Labor secretary for George W. Bush and Transportation secretary for Trump.
Chao reached her breaking point after Jan. 6. She resigned from the Cabinet, saying the riots “deeply troubled me in a way I simply cannot set aside.”
The statement was a taunt at Trump, who once lauded her work in his Cabinet and he began to include her in his attacks on McConnell. His attacks have “bewildered” Chao, according to a former senior administration official who remains close to her. But she initially decided not to respond since it just “creates another news cycle.”
“Especially for Asians, it’s critical to have filial piety — you honor the family name. And that’s a hit not only to her personal reputation but her name and family,” said the former official, who was granted anonymity to speak candidly about the former secretary. “It’s offensive and a stain on everything he achieved for Asian Americans.”