- President Donald Trump on Tuesday threatened to cut US funding for the World Health Organization.
- “We’re going to put a hold on money spent to the WHO,” Trump said at a White House briefing. “We’re going to put a very powerful hold on it, and we’re going to see.” Minutes later, he said he had not yet made a final decision on the cut.
- “They seem to be very China-centric,” the president said of WHO. “And they seem to err always on the side of China. And we fund it, you know, so I want to look into it.”
- The US is the organization’s biggest funder, contributing 14% of its budget. A top WHO director said the height of the coronavirus pandemic is “not the time to cut back on funding.”
- Many critics have said WHO was too positive in its assessment of China’s early response to the outbreak.
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President Donald Trump on Tuesday threatened to cut US funding for the World Health Organization after accusing it of pro-China bias.
“We’re going to put a hold on money spent to the WHO. We’re going to put a very powerful hold on it, and we’re going to see,” Trump said at the White House coronavirus task force briefing.
Hours earlier, he attacked the organization in a tweet.
“The W.H.O. really blew it. For some reason, funded largely by the United States, yet very China centric. We will be giving that a good look,” Trump wrote.
“Fortunately I rejected their advice on keeping our borders open to China early on,” he added. “Why did they give us such a faulty recommendation?”
Later in the briefing, Trump repeated his accusation that WHO is pro-China but suggested that the funding cut had not been decided.
—Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) April 8, 2020
Trump: We’re just going to take a look at it. You know, we fund it. And they seem to be — you know, I said recently in social media, I said they seem to be very China-centric. That’s a nice way of saying it. But they seem to be very China-centric. And they seem to err always on the side of China. And we fund it, you know, so I want to look into it.
Reporter: A quick follow-up on that. So is the time to freeze funding to the WHO during a pandemic of this magnitude?
Trump: No, maybe not. I mean, I’m not saying I’m going to do it, but we’re going to look at it.
Reporter: You did say that you were —
Trump: No, I didn’t. I said we’re going to look at it. We’re going to investigate it. We’re going to look at it. But we will look at ending funding. Yeah. Because you know what? They called it wrong. And if you look back over the years even, they’re very much — everything seems to be very biased toward China. That’s not right.
Responding to Trump, Dr. Hans Kluge, WHO’s Europe director, said on Wednesday, “We are still in the acute phase of a pandemic so now is not the time to cut back on funding,” according to Reuters.
Dr. Bruce Aylward, a senior adviser to WHO’s director-general, also said it was important that the organization worked with China in the early stages of the outbreak.
“It was absolutely critical in the early part of this outbreak to have full access to everything possible, to get on the ground and work with the Chinese to understand this,” Aylward said, per Reuters. “This is what we did with every other hard-hit country like Spain and had nothing to do with China specifically.”
Aylward was recently accused of ignoring a Hong Kong reporter’s question about whether WHO would reconsider Taiwan’s membership.
According to the organization’s website, the US is its single biggest funder, contributing 14% of its budget.
WHO has played a key role in amassing data on the outbreak and providing guidance on measures to slow its spread. It has criticized restrictions on travel from China, as Trump had implemented, suggesting the move could hurt economic growth.
After spending the initial weeks of the outbreak downplaying it, Trump has recently claimed that the US was able to stem the outbreak by acting early to bar travelers from China. Other countries have implemented similar travel bans.
Trump has also sought to highlight China’s status as the source of the outbreak. He has called the illness the “China virus,” which WHO and other experts have said stokes xenophobia.
The president has long attacked international institutions, claiming that they seek to exploit the US and undermine his “America First” policies.
But Trump has not been alone in criticizing WHO’s response to the pandemic. Many critics have said that while the organization was praising China’s response to the outbreak, the country was suppressing key data on the extent of the problem.