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Asian Neighbors Write Letter To Jon Husted Expressing Safety Fears

Now-Lt. Gov. Jon Husted speaking at the Columbus Chamber of Commerce Government Day in Cincinnati, Ohio on Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2018.
John Minchillo
Associated Press
Now-Lt. Gov. Jon Husted speaking at the Columbus Chamber of Commerce Government Day in Cincinnati, Ohio on Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2018.

Dozens of Asian Americans who live in the same Columbus suburb as Lt. Gov. Jon Husted have penned a letter expressing their concerns with his “Wuhan virus” tweetand their fears of safety in Ohio.

"Our children have been targeted for bullying and abuse in the district well before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, but that abuse has increased significantly in the last 14 months and has reached levels that have brought news media attention to our doorsteps," the letter reads. "Our children are the classmates, friends, and neighbors of your children."

The letter comes in response to Husted's tweet last Friday, in which he promoted an article about former CDC director Robert Redfield, giving an opinion — without evidence — that he believed the coronavirus originated from a lab in Wuhan, China.

According to a new report from the World Health Organization, that assertion is "extremely unlikely." Instead, the coronavirus was likely spread from animals to humans.

In his tweet, Husted commented, "So it appears it was the Wuhan Virus after all?" It immediately drew criticism as advocates warned such rhetoric is a driving force behind violence against Asian Americans, especially after the spa shootings around Atlanta.

The letter to Ohio's Republican lieutenant governor, signed by nearly 70 "members and families of Upper Arlington's Asian and Asian American community," said his choice of words has only raised their fears and anxieties.

"We want to believe that you did not have as your goal to make your neighbors feel even more frightened and even more vulnerable," reads the letter, which was obtained by NBC4i. "So, we are sharing our fear with you. Many of us fear the verbal abuse that our children and family members experience will soon escalate to physical violence against them, and we are incapable of protecting them from this."

The organization Stop AAPI Hate has collected reports of nearly 3,800 incidents of hate directed at the Asian American and Pacific Islanders in the U.S. — 40 of which come from Ohio. Both advocates and law enforcement say the real number of incidents is probably far higher, due to underreporting.

In their letter, the Upper Arlington group invites Husted to meet personally to discuss violence and racism towards Ohio's Asian communities.

"As a resident of Upper Arlington, and our Lt. Governor, you are uniquely situated and have the power to take action to protect the families of our community," the letter continues. "To protect all of our families."

Husted has defended his the tweet, saying it was intended to criticize the Chinese government for what he says is its role in the spread of the virus.

“I was just pointing out that this is an international crisis, in my opinion, that the Chinese government is responsible for and I wanted an independent investigation,” Husted told the Associated Press. “So I wasn’t trying to accomplish anything that the political left or political right thinks that I might have from that tweet other than to draw attention to the issue.”

Associated Press