Skip to main content
A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Trump Adds New Falsehood to Pelosi/Chinatown Claims


President Donald Trump has upped the ante in his allegations about Nancy Pelosi and Chinatown, falsely charging that the House speaker urged foreign nationals to “bring your infection” to the San Francisco neighborhood. Pelosi never issued such an invitation.

Trump made the claim in remarks at the White House May 22 at a ceremony honoring veterans, describing what he said were Pelosi’s actions a month after his administration announced travel restrictions on China on Jan. 31. The restrictions barred foreign nationals who had been in China in the past 14 days, other than the immediate families of U.S. citizens and permanent residents, from entering the country.

Trump, May 22: Nancy Pelosi, a month later, was in Chinatown in San Francisco. She’s dancing in the streets of Chinatown, trying to say, “It’s okay to come to the United States. It’s fine. It’s wonderful. Come on in. Bring your infection with you.” And then she said, “He should have done it earlier” — about me. And she’s dancing a month later. These people are sick.

As we have written, Pelosi traveled to Chinatown on Feb. 24 in an effort to bolster the neighborhood’s restaurants and shops. Their business had fallen sharply in the wake of the onset of the novel coronavirus pandemic, which originated in Wuhan, China, late last year.

The visit came three weeks before six Bay Area counties implemented shelter-in-place restrictions. On the day of Pelosi’s visit, Trump tweeted this about the virus: “The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA. We are in contact with everyone and all relevant countries. CDC & World Health have been working hard and very smart. Stock Market starting to look very good to me!”

While, as we have written, Trump announced the travel restrictions at the end of January, he also downplayed the danger of the virus in a series of remarks and tweets from Jan. 22 to March 10.

The Pelosi-goes-to-Chinatown riff has been a staple at Trump appearances over the past several months. As we have reported, Trump referred to the visit six times in April at White House coronavirus task force briefings, each time describing inaccurately what transpired.

Trump variously said Pelosi held a “rally” in Chinatown, was having or wanted to have “parties” or a “street party” there and encouraged people to go to a “big parade.” In fact, Pelosi never mentioned parties or rallies, and the “big parade” — the Chinese New Year Parade — took place on Feb. 8, two weeks before Pelosi went there.

In May, Trump shifted to references to Pelosi “dancing in the streets of San Francisco in Chinatown.” She didn’t.

Pelosi did walk the streets of Chinatown Feb. 24 and urged people to return to its shops and restaurants.

Pelosi, Feb. 24: [W]e should come to Chinatown. Precautions have been taken by our city. We know that there is concern surrounding tourism, traveling all throughout the world, but we think it’s very safe to be in Chinatown and hope that others will come. It’s lovely here. The food is delicious, the shops are prospering, the parade was great. Walking tours continue. Please come and visit and enjoy Chinatown.

Trump and Pelosi have long been at odds, and the president was angered by the decision of the House to impeach him. In March, a Pelosi aide said the two hadn’t spoken in five months.

As his latest comments reflect, Trump was not pleased by Pelosi’s criticism that he had responded too slowly to the coronavirus. On March 29, on CNN’s “State of the Union,” she said, “his denial at the beginning was deadly. His delaying of getting equipment to where — it continues — his delay in getting equipment to where it’s needed is deadly.”

The following day, Trump returned fire on “Fox & Friends.”

Trump, March 30: Look, she’s a sick puppy in my opinion. She really is. She got a lot of problems. And that’s a horrible thing to say, especially when I was the one — and, you know, I’ve gotten from fair people, you know, a lot of accolades, and I don’t want the accolades but it’s just in service of a fact. When I stopped some very, very infected, very, very sick people, thousands coming in from China long earlier than anybody thought, including the experts.

In his May 22 remarks, Trump repeated another claim, that he “was very early” with his travel restrictions, but that is not the case. Awe have reported, 36 countries, including the U.S., had imposed travel restrictions by Feb. 2, the day the U.S. restrictions went into effect.

The president also repeated a false claim that he “was the only — the one that wanted to do it.” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said the decision came from “the uniform recommendations of the career public health officials here at HHS.” 

So, yes, Pelosi did go to Chinatown in February to encourage people to eat and shop in the neighborhood. But she certainly didn’t invite foreign nationals to “bring your infection” there.