NBC News' Richard Engel takes heat for saying coronavirus is a 'bat virus, not a China virus'

Get all the latest news on coronavirus and more delivered daily to your inbox. Sign up here.

NBC News chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel seemed to reject President Trump's repeated attempts to tie coronavirus to China -- where the virus originated, declaring on Wednesday that "this is a bat virus, not a China virus."

During a White House press briefing, Trump was repeatedly asked about his reference to the pandemic as the "Chinese virus," which he defended by stating that the virus came from China; he dismissed claims that his label was racist.

Engel took it a step further, insisting the blame belongs to the animal the illness came from -- not the country the illness originated in.

"It's easy to scapegoat people and that is what has always happened when there have been pandemics or epidemics, that foreigners are attacked or sometimes physically attacked if you look at what happened during the Middle Ages," Engel said. "There was lots and lots of scapegoating against an ethnic group or a religious group whenever there were pandemics that affected the society and frightened a lot of people. And China certainly feels that's what's happening now with people calling it the 'Wuhan flu' or the 'Wuhan virus' or the 'China virus.'"

He continued: "This is a virus that came from the territory of China but came from bats. This is a bat virus, not a China virus. It doesn't speak Chinese. It doesn't target Chinese people. It targets human beings who happen to touch their eyes, nose or mouth."

HOW TO PREVENT THE SPREAD

Engel's analysis was widely blasted on social media, with some even accusing him of pushing "Chinese propaganda."

"You have got to be f---ing kidding me," Ben Shapiro tweeted. "The Chinese government destroyed evidence of the virus, allowed free travel of 5 million people from the Wuhan region, and censored doctors who talked about it."

"The media's obsession over calling the term 'Chinese virus' racist is just astonishing," RealClearPolitics founder Tom Bevan said.

"The Chinese government deleted lab work and samples and intimidated their doctors to cover up any trace of it while also lying to the World Health Organization. I'm fine calling it a Chinese Government Virus as well. NBC has been on the front lines pushing PRC propaganda," conservative commentator Stephen Miller tweeted.

"So the #WuhanBatVirus since China stopped studies of the virus, arrested doctors, deleted news reports, withheld critical data -- they own if for those reasons, too. Stop aiding in communist China’s propaganda war," radio host Dana Loesch said.

CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP

"These people have lost their minds," National Review senior writer David Harsanyi wrote.

"The Chinese Communist Party thanks you for your service, Richard," Washington Examiner's Siraj Hashmi tweeted.