Donald Trump seems to always be on a path of personal and political self-destruction. That seems clear as he does not seem to have any idea that the things he has said over the years are pretty hurtful and often racist. Below, we present another such example that could hurt his political chances in 2024 to take back the White House:
For the majority of former President Donald Trump’s time in office, Elaine Chao served as the Secretary of Transportation.
(Subscribe to 19FortyFive’s New YouTube Channel here.)
She was nominated by Donald Trump and confirmed, and served relatively uneventfully for nearly four years until she resigned after the January 6 riot, a few days before the end of his presidency. Chao stated at the time that the riot was a “traumatic and entirely avoidable event” that “deeply troubled me in a way I simply cannot set aside.”
Donald Trump Just Won’t Stop Saying Hurtful Things
Donald Trump frequently fired and broke with cabinet secretaries during his term. Still, Chao, who was previously Secretary of Labor in the Bush Administration, remained a reliable member of the cabinet nearly until the end.
Since then, Trump has regularly insulted Chao, usually apropos of nothing.
He has given the Taiwanese-American the nickname “Coco Chow” and at other times accused her of being Sen. Mitch McConnell’s “China-loving wife.” Chao’s family immigrated from Taiwan when she was a child, and she has been an American citizen since the 1970s.
Last month, Trump tried to tie Chao to the Biden documents controversy, specifically the report in the Daily Mail last week that documents from the Obama-Biden administration were taken to a storage facility in Washington’s Chinatown for a few months in 2017 until they were moved to the Penn Biden Center offices.
“Does Coco Chow have anything to do with Joe Biden’s Classified Documents being sent and stored in Chinatown?” Trump posted on Truth Social Monday. “Her husband, the Old Broken Crow, is VERY close to Biden, the Democrats, and, of course, China. He gives them all whatever they want!”
There’s no reason to believe that the sitting Secretary of Transportation would have any role in the placement of documents from the previous administration. Chao, of course, is not Chinese, and documents being kept in Chinatown have nothing to do with her.
Chao has not spoken in response to the attacks, nor did she ever say anything when Trump used language considered offensive to Asians and Asian Americans throughout his presidency. But she has now spoken out about the comments.
“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 that was published last month. “He doesn’t seem to understand that, which says a whole lot more about him than it will ever say about Asian Americans.”
In late December, appearing on CNN, Chao did address the issue, but less forcefully than in this week’s statement, and was more critical of the media than of Trump.
“I think it’s very helpful if the media does not repeat that racist tweet,” Chao said in the interview, with CNN’s Kaitlan Collins. “I mean, if it were the n-word or any other word, the media would not repeat it. But the media continually repeats his racist taunt. And so he’s trying to get a rise out of us. He says all sorts of outrageous things and I don’t make a point of answering any one of them.”
Politico noted that this represents a shift from Chao, who has rarely entered the political fray since leaving the Trump Administration more than two years ago, aside from occasional interviews and testimony before the January 6 committee. The statement “suggests that discomfort with Trump’s anti-Asian rhetoric has reached a new level amid several high-profile shootings targeting Asian Americans,” Politico said.
Steven Cheung, a spokesman for Donald Trump who is himself Asian-American, told the site that Trump, in the social media posts about the former secretary, was referring to Chao’s family’s business dealings.
“People should stop feigning outrage and engaging in controversies that exist only in their heads,” the spokesman told Politico. “What’s actually concerning is her family’s deeply troubling ties to Communist China, which has undermined American economic and national security.”
Stephen Silver is a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive. He is an award-winning journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons.