Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell wants everyone to know that anti-Asian racism hits close to home, just not close enough to support legislation that would make it harder for someone to gun down Asian people.
After a Tuesday afternoon press conference in which Republican Senators aired their grievances about everything from the border to voting rights, a reporter asked McConnell if he regrets his longtime opposition legislation that would strengthen background checks for gun sales in the wake of two high profile mass shootings in the last week: Monday’s grocery store shooting in Boulder, Colorado that left 10 dead, and the Atlanta spa shootings that left 8 dead—including six Asian women—one week ago.
The alleged Atlanta shooter, Robert Aaron Long, bought a gun earlier that day; the state of Georgia requires a longer waiting period to obtain an abortion.
“As the husband for almost three decades of an Asian-American woman, I have noticed—and we have experienced, over the years—racial prejudice against Asian-Americans,” McConnell said, referring to his wife, former Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao. “It certainly rose to the fore for everyone else when we saw these shootings.”
But the rise of anti-Asian violence was evident long before the recent shootings. Violence against Asian people in the United States has been on the rise due to the covid-19 pandemic, which originated in China. President Trump took great pleasure in villainizing China on social media and during press conferences. He reveled in referring to covid-19 as “The China Virus,” “The Chinese Virus,” and “Kung Flu,” but insisted these terms weren’t racist. This, combined with racist imagery from various news outlets depicting China—and therefore Chinese people—as underhanded and unsanitary, helped create a powder keg of anti-Asian resentment, leading to multiple reports of harassment and physical altercations, largely against Asian women.
Researchers at the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University tracked a direct correlation between the uptick in anti-Asian violence and the time Trump started calling covid-19 “The China Virus.” And yet, number one Wife Guy McConnell didn’t feel the need to push back on Trump’s sinophobic comments that had the potential to put a target on his wife’s back.
In true form, McConnell qualified his statement by saying, “These despicable acts of violence should be condemned for what they are, but the legislative solutions have been perplexing.”
The “perplexing” legislative solutions he’s referring to are H.R. 8 and H.R. 1446, two gun control bills that passed in the House with scant Republican support earlier this month. H.R. 8 requires gun background checks for unlicensed dealers while H.R. 1446 closes a loophole that allows gun sales to proceed if a background check is not completed within three days. McConnell noted that he agrees with Democratic Senator Joe Manchin in opposing both bills, but that was a given without namedropping the most conservative—and, therefore, one of the most powerful—Democrats in the Senate.
But the racism expert didn’t stop there. Later, McConnell made sure to make this brilliantly false and easily debunked statement too: “[The Senate filibuster] has no racial history at all. None. There’s no dispute among historians about that.”
It has famously been used to withhold civil rights from Black people, but okay.
Hell of a day, McConnell!