President Donald Trump on Thursday was photographed reading from notes at the daily coronavirus task force press conference where the word "corona" was crossed out and replaced with "Chinese" to described COVID-19.
The photograph, taken by a Washington Post photographer, showed the word crossed out in what appeared to be Sharpie and in the president's own handwriting.
The image comes as Trump has ramped up his description of the coronavirus as a "Chinese virus" as he's been questioned about whether he considers the label to be racist.
"It's not racist at all," Trump told reporters Wednesday. "It comes from China, that's why."
There has been significant public criticism of the term, which critics say will inflame anti-Asian sentiment aimed at Asian Americans and Asian American-owned businesses here in the U.S.
John C. Yang, president and executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC, told NBC Asian America that Trump's use of the term could have a dangerous impact.
"I absolutely think that words used by him matter," he said. "Certainly use of this term by him and others even in the last couple of weeks have led to a noticeable incline in hate incidents that we are seeing. I do think that there is a correlation."
Administration officials have defended the term by pointing out that the Chinese government has in recent weeks attempted to blame the U.S. for the virus, which originated in the Wuhan region of China.
Since 2015, the World Health Organization has warned against giving outbreaks geographic or national labels in order "to minimize unnecessary negative effects on nations, economies and people." Some prominent geographic or national labels from pandemics past, like Spanish Flu, have even been misnomers.
Amid increased criticism for his administration's slow response to the outbreak, Trump has repeatedly highlighted his travel restrictions on China, which were instituted early on in the crisis.
"If people would have known about it, could have been stopped in place, it could have been stopped where it came from, China," Trump told reporters Thursday in defending his administration's efforts.
Congressional allies have risen to Trump's defense amid the backlash. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas., told reporters Wednesday that "China is to blame" because the Chinese culture is "where people eat bats and snakes and dog and things like that."
Cornyn's comments, which were also met with backlash, referred to reports that the virus was likely to have originated in a Chinese "wet market."