Kim, 42, also argued that a rising surge in violence and threats against Asian Americans has been trumped up by the media, saying that “Asians have always faced violence. It’s not worse than before.”
The comments left Kim, who served under Trump in the Small Business Administration, facing blowback from both supporters and opponents. Republican California Reps. Young Kim and Michelle Steel, who endorsed Kim in March, told CNN they had told her that the comments were wrong.
“Sery’s comments were unacceptable and hurtful, especially at a time when hate targeting the [Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders] community is on the rise, and we made that clear to her today,” Young Kim and Steel said in a statement to CNN.
Kim’s office did not immediately respond to a message from The Washington Post late Thursday. She told CNN that she meant to direct her comments at the Chinese government.
“[The remarks] were directed at the Communist Party of China, and were not directed at Asian Americans, especially Chinese immigrants fleeing this oppressive regime,” she told CNN.
Kim was born in South Korea and immigrated to the U.S. at an early age, with her family eventually settling in Texas. She was an attorney, and later served in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services under President George W. Bush before joining the Trump’s transition team in 2016. She also served as a senior adviser at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services under Trump.
Kim is now among 11 Republicans running for a seat left vacant when Rep. Ron Wright (R-Tex.) died of covid-19 complications in February. His widow, Susan Wright, who was also present at the forum on Wednesday, is also running to represent the district in northeastern Texas in the May 1 election.
After her comments about China at the forum, Kim said she did not believe there has been a surge in violent attacks against Asian Americans. “The biggest difference right now is people are filming it and the media choosing to report it,” she said.
She also said that she’s never faced discrimination because of her race, the Morning News reported. “I am Asian American and I have never felt discrimination because I blame China for the problems they have actually created,” Kim said.
Kim also explicitly blamed China for the virus, saying, “China created [the] coronavirus in a Wuhan lab.”
The World Health Organization released a report earlier this week announcing the virus most likely first infected humans after jumping from an animal, a theory with wide scientific support. However, the agency noted it has not ruled out the possibility that the virus could have originated in a lab, saying it did not get enough access from Chinese authorities during their investigation to prove or disprove it.
Lydia Bean, a Democrat running for the seat whose husband and 10-month-old son are both Chinese American, lambasted Kim on Twitter and called her comments “racist.”
“The ‘them’ @seryfortexas is referring to are my husband Norman & my ten month old baby boy Micah,” tweeted Bean on Thursday. “This type of speech, no matter who it comes from puts their lives in danger. It’s racist, and it’s not who we are in Texas.”
She added: “The hateful rhetoric by Sery Kim is shocking, but it is unsurprising. Trump Republicans often scapegoat Asian Americans because they would rather place blame than get things done.”
Young and Steel, who are the first GOP Korean American women in Congress, told CNN that despite their opposition to Kim’s speech, both lawmakers still support her bid for Congress.
Russell Jeung, a professor of Asian American studies at San Francisco State University and co-founder of Stop AAPI Hate, which tracks incidents of hate and discrimination against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the United States, took issue with Kim’s suggestion that violence against the community hasn’t increased.
“Although Republican candidate Sery Kim does not believe that anti-Asian violence is worse than before, the Atlanta shootings and our Stop AAPI Hate data prove otherwise,” Jeung told The Post in an email, referring to a mass shooting last month that killed eight people, including six Asian women.
Jeung noted that his organization has received almost 3,800 reports of discrimination from Asian Americans across the country since last March.
“This surge in racism is clearly attributable to the inflammatory political rhetoric of [the] Republican Party, including the kind of China-bashing that Kim spouts,” Jeung said.