U.S. President Donald Trump said he is considering temporarily suspending funding for the World Health Organization (WHO). On Tuesday, he aired his grievances with its handling of the coronavirus outbreak.
“They missed the call. They could have called it months earlier. They would have known, and they should have known, and they probably did know,” Trump said during a White House press briefing. His statement suggests that WHO did not completely warn the international community about the virus.
“We’re going to be looking into that very carefully, and we’re going to put a hold on money spent to the WHO,” Trump continued. “We’re going to put a very powerful hold on it, and we’re going to see. It’s a great thing if it works, but when they call every shot wrong, that’s not good.”
A reporter asked him on whether it was a good idea to pause funding during a worldwide pandemic, the president emphasized that he was only mulling about suspending the funding.
“I’m not going to say I’m going to do it,” Trump said. “We will look at ending funding.”
The United States remains to be the largest contributor to the budget of WHO. There was a proposal in the fiscal 2021 budget request that aims to reduce funding to the WHO, a body of the United Nations that oversees international public health. The funding could be slashed from $122 million to about $58 million.
According to Trump, WHO seemed to be “very biased towards China.” He believes the international organization is disagreeing with his travel restriction on flights coming in from China. His statement implies that the organization did not know much about the extent of the outbreak in Wuhan in the Hubei province of China where the virus started.
In early February, WHO reported that travel bans that hinder international travel and trade were not important to curb the spread of COVID-19, days after the Trump made an announcement about travel restrictions for those coming into the U.S. from China.
“They actually criticized and disagreed with my travel ban at the time I did it, and they were wrong. They’ve been wrong about a lot of things. They had a lot of information early, and they didn’t — they seemed to be very China-centric. We have to look into it,” Trump explained.
Meanwhile, a reporter was asking Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, about WHO when he interjected and said that Fauci “respects the WHO, and I think that’s good.”
“But they did give us some pretty bad play-calling,” Trump said.
Underreporting of China
Senator Martha McSally said that WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus should resign when reports from U.S. intelligence community suggested that China underreported its tally of coronavirus cases. She accused WHO of aiding China to not disclose the extent of the outbreak.
Ezekiel Emanuel, a special adviser to the director general of the WHO, criticized Trump’s comments on the coronavirus at the end of February, saying that Trump’s statements at his first press briefing on the coronavirus outbreak were “incoherent.”