The World Health Organization is going on defense amid mounting public criticism over its handling of the coronavirus pandemic — as the embattled agency reportedly braces for President Trump to restrict its funding, or even replace it altogether by funneling funding to other existing health organizations.
Key Trump administration figures, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, are reportedly preparing recommendations for the commander-in-chief on how best to cut payments to WHO, according to the Washington Post.
The move comes as the organization has spent days defending its actions in the wake of criticism from public health and administration officials, as well as from allies of the president — some going as far as calling for an investigation into its coronavirus response.
Former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley twice accused the UN health agency of covering for China in Fox News appearances last week, telling “Fox & Friends” on Friday that she backed a full investigation by Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Jim Risch (R-Ida.), who had called for a probe into the matter.
Dr. Anthony Fauci was tepid about placing blame directly on WHO, saying that he’d “prefer not to get involved,” in a Fox News appearance last Wednesday, but did acknowledge over the weekend that much had gone wrong that led to the pandemic.
“You know I don’t know where missteps went. Only thing I know with the end result was that early on we did not get correct information. And the incorrect information was propagated right from the beginning because you know when the first cases came out that were identified, I think on December 31st, in China, and we became aware of this, they said this was just animal to human period,” Fauci told Fox News host Jesse Watters Saturday evening.
Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb on Sunday called on WHO to conduct an investigation into what the Chinese government “did and didn’t tell the world” about the virus before it became a pandemic.
“I think going forward the WHO needs to commit to an after-action [report] that specifically examines what China did or didn’t tell the world and how that stymied the global response to this,” Gottlieb told CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday.
“I also think they need to embrace Taiwan’s role in the global health community and allow them to attend the World Health Assembly,” he continued.
Donald TrumpThe Washington Post via Getty Im
Haley shared Gottlieb’s stance on Taiwan, saying in her Friday “Fox & Friends” appearance that the state’s warnings being ignored in favor of the word of China, especially given that China views Taiwan as a rogue province, showed how the agency gives the Communist Party special treatment.
“I mean look at the timeline. You’ve got, December 30: Taiwan goes and tells the WHO ‘we believe and have evidence that there’s human-to-human transmission.’ Then you have, January 14: the head of the WHO, Tedros [Adhanom Ghebreyesus], says ‘we don’t see any evidence of human-to-human transmission,’” the former South Carolina governor said.
As for the Trump administration’s stance, White House officials have begun drafting a letter that, if approved, will announce a suspension of funding to WHO, Politico reports. The letter also announces a cut in funding to a related organization, the Pan American Health Organization.
The document also reportedly instructs State Department officials and other institutions to try to route money to other existing health organizations.
President Trump has teased that his administration would make a move to punish the agency, telling reporters on Friday that they would hold the aid.
“As you know, we give them approximately $500 million a year. And we’re going to be talking about that subject next week. We’ll have a lot to say about it. We’ll hold it,” he said.
For WHO’s part, special envoy David Nabarro took to NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday to defend his organization’s handling of events, and taking the Chinese Communist Party’s word, saying they are not in a position to doubt the data given to them by other countries.
“We don’t have in the World Health Organization the power to go and inspect beyond what countries tell us. That’s been made clear in the treaty that governments agreed in 2005 on how nations work together and how the WHO operates. We believe what we’ve got. We work with what we’ve got.”
In 2019, US contributions to the WHO topped $400 million, according to Reuters.