“It’s alarming, but it’s not surprising that people of color have a greater burden,” Adams explained on Friday at the White House coronavirus briefing, when asked why minority communities have been struck harder by Covid-19 than others.
Expanding on his point, Adams pointed out that minority communities face harder social situations and can have less access to healthcare and less opportunity for social distance because of larger households. He then made a plea for African-Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans and other minority groups to avoid alcohol, tobacco and other substances that could lower their immune systems.
“Do it for your abuela, do it for your grandaddy, do it for your big momma, do it for your pawpaw” he said. “We need you to understand, especially in communities of color, we need you to step up and help stop the spread so we can protect those most vulnerable.”
Even though Adams is African-American himself, his language immediately triggered online busybodies.
“So now we have —the black US Surgeon General targeting and stereotyping black people, Latinos and other people of color. It’s beyond offensive,” Karine-Jean-Pierre of the liberal group MoveOn tweeted in reaction to the comments.
“Are sitcom writers from the 90s creating these speeches?” another user wrote in reaction.
“Some will find this language offensive,” tweeted NPR journalist Yamiche Alcindor – turning it into a self-fulfilling prophecy just moments later, when she asked Adams why “many” did so.
“That was not meant to be offensive,” Adams told her, adding it was simply the language he and others use in his diverse family. As for alcohol and drugs, all Americans should avoid them “at all times,” he said.
The backlash itself spawned backlash, with plenty of social media users defending Adams and criticizing Alcindor — the same reporter who claimed last month a White House official had used the term ‘kung-flu’ to describe the coronavirus — for even asking the question.
“This is the dumbest question I’ve ever heard,” one user wrote.
“Our media is so eager to create controversy,” reporter Jason Howerton added.
Another commentator answered Alcindor with a photo of a passive-aggressive note left by someone in the White House press corps at a desk of a conservative colleague last month.
President Donald Trump complimented Adams, saying he was doing a “fantastic job” and hoping he remains in the post. Dr Anthony Fauci of the CDC jumped to the surgeon general’s defense as well, saying that Adams expressed himself “beautifully.”
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