A screenshot from the video of US comedian Bill Maher | YouTube
A screenshot from the video of US comedian Bill Maher | YouTube
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New Delhi: Famous US talkshow host, political commentator and satirist Bill Maher unconsciously kindled a moment of bipartisanship between the Congress and the BJP as he defended the description of coronavirus as “Chinese virus”.

Addressing a segment titled “Virus Shaming” on his show Real Time With Bill Maher, aired Friday, the 64-year-old said coronavirus wasn’t the first disease to be identified with its place of origin, citing Ebola (Ebola River), Zika (Zika forest) and the Spanish flu as examples. He then went on to question the “liberal” argument that referring to coronavirus as “Chinese virus” or “Wuhan virus” is racist. 

The argument found a fan in Congress leader Milind Deora, who retweeted the video with a pointed jab at “wokeness” — a term that describes one’s awareness about social justice, but which has come under criticism (including from Maher) for spawning too much political correctness.  

The tweet was immediately retweeted by BJP spokesperson Baijayant Panda, who said the video shared by Deora was “worth watching”.

Others who expressed support for Maher’s video included former foreign secretary Nirupama Rao.

Also Read: ‘Avoid Chinese people with a cough’ — Coronavirus fuels racism against Asians worldwide

‘Not about vilifying a culture’

The Maher video, which is just over 5 minutes long, had been watched over 4.6 million times by Sunday afternoon.

“Seriously, it scares me that there are people out there who would rather die from the virus than call it by the wrong name,” Maher says in the video. “This isn’t about vilifying a culture. This is about facts. It’s about life and death. We are barely four months into the pandemic and the wet markets in China, the ones where exotic animals are sold and consumed are already starting to reopen,” he adds.

Maher was referring to reports from earlier this month that the city of Wuhan, where coronavirus is believed to have originated, was limping back to normalcy along with its wet markets.

He then cites research to question the Chinese practice of eating bats, which are believed to be the reservoirs of several coronaviruses. 

“Eating bats is batshit crazy,” Maher says, adding that the world should blame China for coronavirus. 

“We should blame China. Not Chinese-Americans. But we can’t stop telling the truth because racists get the wrong idea. There are always going to be idiots out there who want to indulge their prejudices. But this is an emergency — don’t we have bigger tainted fish to fry?”

According to a report in The New York Post, this monologue by Maher has put him “in line with President Donald Trump and many of his conservative allies who have sought to play up China’s role in the Covid-19 pandemic”.  

US President Trump has referred to the novel coronavirus as “Chinese virus” or “Wuhan virus” many times. He has defended his statements, saying the virus “comes from China” and the description is “not racist at all.”    

However, he later said he would not use the term, adding that he had a “very good” relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Trump is not alone. Calls have also emerged from the RSS affiliate Sadeshi Jagran Manch to officially rename Covid-19 as coronavirus.

Also Read: Coronavirus racism against NE Indians: How can govt prevent Sino-phobia from hurting our own?

Who is Bill Maher?

Maher is well-known for his sardonic style of political commentary, which often lands him in controversy. Last year, he said fat-shaming needed to make a “comeback” to help the US beat its obesity crisis.

In 2008, he co-wrote Religulous, a documentary that questioned controversial religious practices, including those from Islam and Christianity.

In 2002, his hit show Politically Incorrect was cancelled after he questioned the US’ reaction to 9/11. Arguing with the suggestion that the hijackers involved were cowards, he said the US had been “the cowards, lobbing cruise missiles from 2,000 miles away”.

A self-proclaimed “apatheist”, Maher has also written many books, including When You Ride Alone You Ride with Bin Laden (2002), New Rules: Polite Musings from a Timid Observer (2005), and The New New Rules: A Funny Look at How Everybody but Me Has Their Head up Their Ass (2011).

Also Read: 67% Indians blame China for Covid-19, 50% say calling it ‘Chinese virus’ not racist: Survey


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  1. I am 68 years old and as a young boy used to listen Radio liberty which used to target Indian audience at 18.00 hours during cultural Revolution.This is Chinese virus and I am not sure whether it happened by design or default only time will tell.But calling a Chinese virus just won’t help.People should buy Indian products even though it may be little costlier and we have to hit the Chinese where it hurts.I grew up in a town with lot of leftist influence.If the world supply chain does not change now it will never change.It is a shame that U.S has to import thermometers from China.

  2. It may take some time, but eventually, Chinese people will get civilized and stop eating bats and cats.

    • Hasnt happened in living memory yet. It’s like our people spitting everywhere – it’s part of culture that is disgusting but we’re still OK with it.

      • @Bill Maher: Clearly, you see no difference between a Chinese virus which might kill millions of people and spitting habit of some people brought up in farm lands!!

        Surely, we must call the Vatican to know WHY is it so??!!

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