Fact Check

Did Biden Ban Saying 'China Virus' With Executive Order?

The U.S. president condemned increasing xenophobia against Asian Americans during the pandemic.

Published Jan 28, 2021

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 26: (L-R) Vice President Kamala Harris looks on as U.S. President Joe Biden signs executives orders related to his racial equity agenda in the State Dining Room of the White House on January 26, 2021 in Washington, DC. President Biden signed executive actions Tuesday on housing and justice reforms, including a directive to the Department of Justice to end its use of private prisons. (Photo by Doug Mills-Pool/Getty Images) (Doug Mills-Pool/Getty Images)
Image Via Doug Mills-Pool/Getty Images
Claim:
U.S. President Joe Biden issued an executive order in January 2021 banning any use of the term “China virus.”
What's True

Biden's order directed federal agencies “to ensure that official actions, documents, and statements, including those that pertain to the COVID-19 pandemic, do not exhibit or contribute to racism [...] against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.”

What's False

The executive order does not explicitly reference the phrase “China virus.” The so-called “ban” only applies to federal departments and agencies, not personal speech.

On Jan. 26, 2021, U.S. President Joe Biden issued an executive order on racial equity, particularly condemning growing xenophobia against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) during the COVID-19 pandemic. Without directly mentioning former President Donald Trump’s habit of calling the coronavirus the “China virus” because of its reported country of origin, Biden said the federal government had directly contributed to this growing xenophobia.

Online, many argued that Biden’s order was banning all references to the “China virus”:

This is a misrepresentation of the executive order. While the language in the order does not explicitly reference the “China virus,” it does talk about how the federal government has “played a role in furthering these xenophobic sentiments [against the AAPI community] through the actions of political leaders, including references to the COVID-19 pandemic by the geographic location of its origin.”

The memorandum issued by the White House directs federal agencies to do the following:

Executive departments and agencies (agencies) shall take all appropriate steps to ensure that official actions, documents, and statements, including those that pertain to the COVID-19 pandemic, do not exhibit or contribute to racism, xenophobia, and intolerance against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. Agencies may consult with public health experts, AAPI community leaders, or AAPI community-serving organizations, or may refer to any best practices issued pursuant to subsection (a) of this section, to ensure an understanding of the needs and challenges faced by AAPI communities.

In his remarks at the signing, Biden said: "Today, I’m directing federal agencies to combat resurgence of xenophobia, particularly against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, that we’ve seen skyrocket during this pandemic. This is unacceptable and it’s un-American. I’ve asked the Department of Justice to strengthen its partnership with the Asian American and Pacific Islander community to prevent those hate crimes."

Biden has not issued a complete ban on "China virus" or similar terms via executive order. He can only direct federal agencies to not use such terms in their official materials and statements. The order does not explicitly reference “China virus,” but it does condemn the use of such phrases that refer to the coronavirus through its location of origin because they contribute to xenophobia against the AAPI community.

As such we rate this claim a “Mixture.”

Nur Nasreen Ibrahim is a reporter with experience working in television, international news coverage, fact checking, and creative writing.

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