WASHINGTON — President Trump threatened to cut off funding to the World Health Organization on Tuesday, accusing the group of helping China cover up the coronavirus contagion.
Trump’s attack follows weeks of criticism of the global public health agency from Trump’s Republican allies on Fox News and elsewhere, including from Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, who last week called for an Congressional investigation into the WHO’s “role in helping Communist China cover up information regarding the threat of the Coronavirus.”
“Everything seems to be very biased toward China. That’s not right,” Trump told the White House press corps on Tuesday.
He accused the group of failing to sound the alarm about the spreading virus.
“They must have seen it,” Trump said. “But they didn’t report it.”
Trump’s remarks suddenly put about a fifth of the global health group’s operating budget in jeopardy at a moment when the world is fighting a pandemic. The WHO, an agency of the United Nations, relies heavily on voluntary contributions from member states to support its $4.4 billion budget.
Trump is also wrong: The WHO did “report it.”
The WHO declared the coronavirus outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern) on January 30. In a tweet on the same day, Trump’s Secretary of State Mike Pompeo credited the group’s determination with prompting the State Department to recommend Americans avoid traveling to China.
Trump announced travel restrictions on visitors from China the next day, on January 31. But he then suggested the problem was under control — even as it spread throughout the U.S. as a bungled test kept American officials from detecting new cases.
As the U.S. has taken the lead in the number of infections, Trump has sought to rewrite the history of his own dismissive remarks about the threat of the coronavirus in the initial stages of the outbreak. Now, he’s insisting that the WHO should be blamed for failure to recognize the scale of the problem in time, rather than himself.
Trump’s remarks echo a rising chorus of right-wing critics of the WHO for failing to warn the world sooner.
The conservative editorial board of The Wall Street Journal blasted the WHO last weekend for “disinformation,” adding that there’s a “way to ensure future pandemics are less deadly: Reform or defund the World Health Organization.”
ON Tuesday, Trump jumped on the anti-WHO bandwagon.
“They seem to be very China-centric,” Trump said. “They’re always on the side of China. And we fund it. So I want to look into it.”
Cover: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a Coronavirus Task Force news conference at the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, April 7, 2020. (Photo: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA/Bloomberg via Getty Images)