Speaker takes lawmaker to task over ‘China virus’ email
AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — House Speaker Ryan Fecteau criticized a Republican lawmaker for calling the coronavirus the “Chinese virus” but he has no plans for formal reprimand.
House Speaker Ryan Fecteau said the coronavirus descriptor used by Republican Rep. Michael Lemelin in an email to an educator is “a racist trope” that was “offensive and wrong,” but said it’s ultimately voters’ responsibility to hold lawmakers accountable.
Lemelin, whose district includes Chelsea, Jefferson, Nobleboro, and Whitefield, appeared to downplay the seriousness of the virus, noting that no one was concerned when a quarter of Erskine Academy was supposedly sickened by an unnamed virus in 2019. “People need to stop running to the doctor and getting tested at the first sign of illness,” he continued.
He told the Portland Press Herald that he was simply referring to the origin of the virus in Wuhan, China, and that he didn’t downplay the virus’ seriousness.
He referred a reporter from NewsCenter Maine to a Biblical verse and added: “It is a wise man who rules COVID, and a fool who is ruled by COVID,” Lemelin wrote. “We are being ruled by COVID.”