- Associated Press - Monday, April 6, 2020

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) - A Riley County commissioner who said in March that Manhattan, Kansas, wasn’t at high risk for the coronavirus because it doesn’t have many Chinese residents should resign because such comments promote racism and abuse against Asians, an advocacy group said Monday.

The Manhattan Alliance for Peace and Justice held a virtual news conference to criticize Marvin Rodriquez, who defended his remarks after they drew media attention by saying he eats Chinese food and “has Chinese friends and stuff.”

He also has said his comments weren’t meant to insult Chinese people and had been taken out of context, but he has repeated the suggestion that China deliberately spread the virus. He did not return messages from The Associated Press on Monday.

Members of the alliance and other Riley County residents confronted Rodriquez about the remarks at another meeting March 26. At a meeting Monday, Rodriquez had no comment on whether he had considered resigning, The Manhattan Mercury reported.

Fanny Fang, owner of Asian Market in Manhattan, said Monday Rodriquez’s comments promote a false belief that China is responsible for the coronavirus.

“When a government official makes such an ignorant and misinformed comment - that Manhattan is safe because there aren’t many Chinese here - and then follows up with an explanation that doubles down on ignorance, that the Chinese deliberately spread the virus, it turns the dumb, backwards hillbilly comment into something vehemently dangerous, because it’s coming from a government official,” she said.

Dr. Preeti Singh, a primary care physician who said she was not speaking for any medical organization, said Rodriguez’s comments endanger Manhattan residents by leading them to believe they aren’t at risk.

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