GOP leader on having COVID: ‘The Chinese flu army sent in one of their best soldiers’

By: - January 20, 2021 1:10 pm

State Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) made a racist comment this week to describe his recent battle with coronavirus. 

“The Chinese flu army sent in one of their best soldiers,” Shirkey joked with JTV host Bart Hawley on Tuesday. “His name was Rona. I’m not as young as he used to be, so he and I wrestled for nine days, but I finally pinned him.”

Shirkey revealed last week amid media inquiries that he had been diagnosed with the virus just before Christmas. He has been a vocal critic of Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration and actions taken to reduce the transmission of the virus and save lives and hospital resources.

Former President Donald Trump and many of his followers had taken to calling the novel coronavirus the “china virus,” and “Kung flu,” as the pandemic worsened in the United States. Trump referenced the pandemic caused by the “China virus” in his departure remarks this morning before boarding Air Force One on his way to Florida and a post-presidency life. 

State Sen. Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit) slammed Shirkey in a press statement. 

Referring to COVID-19 as ‘Chinese flu’ or ‘China virus’ is xenophobic and completely inappropriate,” she said. “There have been more than 2,500 reports of anti-Asian hate incidents since last March when the coronavirus pandemic was first reported in Michigan, and this language perpetuates it. In fact, the World Health Organization stopped calling viruses by ethnicities or countries for a reason: It causes harm.”

She then discussed how she and other lawmakers have attempted to diffuse the impact of such racial language.

“Last spring, Representative Padma Kuppa (D-Troy) and I spoke out about the need for respect and avoiding racist and xenophobic comments related to COVID-19. We organized a press conference with Attorney General [Dana] Nessel regarding hate incidents and a virtual town hall to make sure that Asian American community members know who to turn to if they are a victim of, or witness to, hate crimes or discrimination. Honestly, we are so tired of having to repeatedly inform people of how harmful this kind of language — especially from elected officials — is to the community. It needs to stop.”

More than 400,000 Americans have died from the disease since February 2020, including almost 14,000 Michiganders. 

All of this plays out as Shirkey continues to shift his explanations about his meeting with militia leaders last year. Despite claims by Shirkey in September, the Michigan State Police on Tuesday said it had not assisted Shirkey in arranging any meetings with militia leaders. 

The Anti-Defamation League called Shirkey’s meeting “extremely disturbing.” The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee has called for Shirkey to resign.

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Todd A. Heywood
Todd A. Heywood

Todd Heywood is an award-winning journalist with over 30 years of experience. He's worked in print, online, radio and television. His reporting has been cited by the U.S. House of Representatives as well as in the United Nations reports on HIV. He's an avid vintage Star Wars collector and lives in Lansing with his three dogs.