It Shouldn’t Just Be Elaine Chao

When it comes Trump’s overtly racist attacks, the only person willing to speak up in the GOP is the person being bullied.

Andrew Harnik/AP

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In a rare public statement, Elaine Chao, the former transportation secretary and wife of Mitch McConnell, hit back at Donald Trump’s anti-Asian attacks on Wednesday, claiming that the overtly racist insult “Coco Chow” revealed more about her one-time boss than it did about Asian Americans.

“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 told Politico. “He doesn’t seem to understand that, which says a whole lot more about him than it will ever say about Asian Americans.”

It was a measured response; its power relying on the fact that someone had bothered to speak up at all.

Yet did it have to be her? Reading Chao’s new statement, what struck me was the absence of Republican lawmakers defending her in the accompanying piece. Aside from two Republicans, Alyssa Farah, the former White House communications director under Trump who has since quit MAGA, and Scott Jennings, a GOP strategist and former aide to Chao’s husband, neither of whom are sitting lawmakers with real skin in the game, the piece didn’t include a single Republican lawmaker willing to speak up.

Chao has previously suggested that repeating Trump’s racist attacks against her—which often includes not only the personalized slur but baseless accusations of secret fealty to Beijing—only fuels his abhorrent taunting. And yet it’s gotten to the point that even she has to say something. And she had to do it alone.

If you squint hard enough, you’ll find a former official who called the racist attacks “offensive” and a “stain on everything” Trump purportedly achieved for Asian Americans. But that official requested anonymity, a choice that can only be judged as an absurdly craven way to condemn overt racism in 2023.

Of course, the GOP’s collective shrug at all this isn’t new. That’s turned into a near-obsession for me, and like Trump, I’ll just keep throwing out words at the wall until someone says something. Here are two: monstrous asshole. 

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