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Elaine Chao issues rare rebuke of Trump over his racist attacks on her

Chao issued a statement after several high-profile shootings targeting Asian Americans.
Former Department Of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.
Elaine Chao in Washington on June 7, 2017.Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

Former Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao called out former President Donald Trump for his racist broadsides aimed at her and his other anti-Asian rhetoric.

Trump, who is ramping up his 2024 presidential campaign, has repeatedly made racist attacks on Chao, who served in his administration, in recent months. Trump’s attacks often involve jabs at her husband, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who has drawn Trump’s ire since he publicly condemned Trump in the wake of the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot.

In a Truth Social post Monday, Trump tried to baselessly suggest that Chao had a connection to the classified documents recently found in President Joe Biden’s Delaware home and an office in Washington.

“Does Coco Chow have anything to do with Joe Biden’s Classified Documents being sent and stored in Chinatown?” Trump wrote. “Her husband, the Old Broken Crow, is VERY close to Biden, the Democrats, and, of course, China.”

In a statement shared with NBC News condemning Trump’s attacks, first reported by Politico, Chao, who immigrated to the U.S. from Taiwan as a child, spoke out about the racism Asian Americans have faced.

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

In a statement, Steven Cheung, a spokesperson for Trump, said "people should stop feigning outrage and engaging in controversies that exist only in their heads."

Chao had avoided responding to Trump’s attacks. In response to a Truth Social post last month in which Trump again used a racial slur against her, Chao said in an interview with CNN that she thought “it would be very helpful if the media does not just repeat that racist tweet."

Chao issued the statement after several high-profile shootings targeting Asian Americans. Trump has also amplified his anti-Asian rhetoric as he begins his campaign for the 2024 presidential election. Other Republicans, such as Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, have stopped short of condemning Trump’s attacks, often equating them to his penchant for using nicknames.

Chao was the first Asian American woman to serve in a presidential Cabinet when she was appointed labor secretary in President George W. Bush’s administration. She later was transportation secretary in the Trump administration.