Trump: I'm cutting off funding for the WHO pending a review

Fine by me. In fact, I called for this myself in a post a few days ago — conditionally: “We should defund this group the moment it’s convenient. If pulling the plug on them tomorrow won’t badly damage the global fight against coronavirus, do it tomorrow. If it will damage it, do it the day after the global vaccination effort ends.” Let China pay for its own mouthpiece. Watch, then read on.


Axios lists the administration’s bill of grievances:

That the WHO publicly supported China’s deceptive early claims about the virus — even saying in mid-January that human-to-human transmission had not been proven.

That the WHO was slow to declare the virus an emergency even as it was spreading rapidly around the world.

That the WHO did not push harder against China — either rhetorically or in practical terms — during its early cover-up. International experts weren’t let into Wuhan until mid-February, for example.

And lastly — this critique being the one Trump most often raises — the WHO said Trump’s travel restrictions against China were unnecessary.

Don’t forget how shabbily the WHO, under pressure from Beijing, has treated Taiwan. Taiwan has performed in exemplary fashion in limiting the spread of COVID-19, having learned hard lessons from the SARS outbreak nearly 2020 years ago. But Taiwan isn’t part of the WHO and its efforts to contain coronavirus over the last several months haven’t been recognized by the group. Why? You know why.

Today, Taiwan’s contribution to the fight against covid-19 has been publicly recognized by Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, and Shinzo Abe, prime minister of Japan. State Department officials have conducted high-level virtual briefings with Taiwanese epidemiologists and government officials. U.S. officials have praised Taiwan for sending millions of masks to the United States. But, true to form, China has reacted in typically small-minded and aggressive manner, accusing Taiwan of engaging in “mask diplomacy” and seeking to profit from the pandemic to push its independence agenda.

Since the eruption of the coronavirus, WHO officials have acted like good soldiers in China’s campaign to cut off Taiwan. WHO officials have refused to answer questions about Taiwan’s success at limiting the coronavirus. In late March, Bruce Aylward, an assistant director-general at the WHO, even seemed to disconnect a video interview to avoid a question about Taiwan.

At a news conference last week, the WHO gave its best pro-China performance yet. Responding to a question from a Canadian reporter about the potential erosion of the WHO’s moral authority, the director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, launched incongruously into a tirade against Taiwan. How he came up with Taiwan as a boogeyman is truly anybody’s guess. Tedros accused Taiwan’s government of tolerating a campaign of death threats and racist insults against him.


To repeat: Let China pay for its own mouthpiece. Per Axios, the White House is looking at defunding the organization in one of two ways. It could ask Congress to rescind money that’s already been appropriated, but that would be tricky since Congress isn’t in session and won’t be in session for several more weeks thanks to the epidemic. Even if they were in session, Democrats aren’t normally fans of defunding international institutions and they’d doubtless criticize Trump (with some reason) of using the WHO as a shiny object to distract from his own failures on the coronavirus response. That leaves the second option, reprogramming the WHO’s funding by “moving it to other international organizations that can administer it for comparable purposes.” If that can be done, great. Either way, we’re talking about less money than you might think: The U.S. contributes $400 million to the WHO annually, a big sum in the abstract but pocket change compared to the budgeting Americans are used to. A Twitter pal suggested that Bill Gates could personally cover the shortfall if it came to that.

“The outbreak could have been contained at its source with very little death, very little death, and certainly very little death by comparison. This would have saved thousands of lives and avoided worldwide economic damage,” said Trump today about China’s, and the WHO’s, failures. Is that true? According to the science, yeah.


If anything, defunding the WHO is too easy on them. It won’t solve the problem of Chinese influence; if anything, Chinese influence will increase as the organization comes to rely more heavily on Beijing for support. Western nations should build their own international health authority. We’re going to take the threat of pandemics more seriously once this fiasco is over. (Right? Aren’t we?) Might as well start putting those pieces in place now.

Trump also mentioned reopening the economy at today’s briefing. He’s going to “authorize” each of the 50 governors in phone calls to reopen in an appropriate “time and manner,” whatever that means. For most blue-state governors, the call will probably function mainly as a test to see if they can avoid cracking up and pissing him off.

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