On Tuesday, President Donald Trump announced the U.S. would immediately halt all funding for the World Health Organization, accusing the United Nations agency of having “put political correctness over life-saving measures” in responding to the Chinese coronavirus.
“Today I’m instructing my administration to halt funding of the WHO while a review is conducted to assess the WHO’s role in severely mismanaging and covering up the spread of the coronavirus,” Trump said at a White House press briefing. “The WHO failed in this basic duty and must be held accountable.”
The recipient of over $400 million in American taxpayer funding, Trump has long attacked the WHO as a wasteful agency disproportionately funded by America. In contrast to the half-billion dollars provided by American taxpayers, the People’s Republic of China contributes a meager $40 million to the agency’s yearly operation.
In terms of proportion, America funds roughly 15 percent of the organization, with China funding only 0.2 percent.
According to Trump, the problems with the WHO represent more than waste, but a dangerous undermining of pandemic transparency, individual safety, and American foreign policy.
“The silence of the WHO on the disappearance of scientific researchers and doctors, and new restrictions on the sharing of research into the origins of COVID-19 in the country of origin, is deeply concerning. Especially when we put up by far the largest amount of money,” Trump said.
The president also attacked the organization for its criticism of his administration’s ban on travel to China, which was later largely enacted by other countries.
“The WHO’s attack on travel restrictions put political correctness above life-saving measures,” said Trump.
Tuesday’s press conference was not the first time Trump has attacked the WHO for undermining American interests. Earlier this month, he accused them of deferring to China’s authoritarian regime—a charge echoed by Taiwan, who has accused the organization of refusing to communicate with their warnings of possible human-to-human transmission of the virus.
“The WHO could not obtain firsthand information to study and judge whether there was human-to-human transmission of COVID-19,” said Taiwan’s Vice President Chen Chien-jen in March. “This led it to announce human-to-human transmission with a delay, and an opportunity to raise the alert level both in China and the wider world was lost.”
Last month, the WHO was accused of carrying water for China’s authoritarian regime when an official refused to acknowledge Taiwan’s existence in an interview with a Hong Kong news outlet.
In a video of the interview, Canadian physician Dr. Bruce Aylward, an aide to WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom, can be seen ignoring a question about Taiwan and then abruptly ending the call when pressed by the reporter.
That episode and other matters led to actions by U.S. Rep. Guy Reschenthaler (R-PA), who, along with nearly 40 of his Republican colleagues, introduced a resolution in the House of Representatives calling for the United States to defund the World Health Organization pending a resignation of leadership and investigation into its treatment of China during the coronavirus pandemic.
For reasons beyond understanding, the @WHO acted as a silent partner in China's disinformation efforts instead of protecting the lives of millions across the world, including hundreds of thousands of American citizens.
— Congressman Fred Keller (@RepFredKeller) April 7, 2020
The resolution was cosponsored by Texas Republican Congressmen Brian Babin, Bill Flores, Chip Roy, Randy Weber, Ron Wright, Jodey Arrington, Dan Crenshaw, and Lance Gooden.
According to national reporting, the investigation that congressional Republicans and President Donald Trump called for will be conducted by the U.S. Senate Homeland Security Committee led by Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin.