WASHINGTON, DC – APRIL 07: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks with reporters following a meeting of … [+]
Topline: President Trump, during the prepared statements portion of his Tuesday press briefing, said the United States would put a hold on its funding for the World Health Organization because “they called it wrong” and have a, as he claims, bias for China. Later during the Q&A portion, he softened that position to say the administration would look into it.
- “They called it wrong,” Trump said at the start of the briefing. “They missed the call. They could have called it months earlier. They would have known. And they should’ve known. And they probably did know. So we’ll be looking into that very carefully. And we’re going to put a hold on money spent to the WHO. We’re going to put a very powerful hold on it.”
- “I’m not saying I’m going to do it,” Trump later answered. When a reporter reminded him that he did in fact say he would put a hold on funding, Trump pushed back: “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.”
- Earlier in the day, Trump tweeted criticism at the WHO, the latest point of blame for the spread of the virus in the U.S., writing “The WHO really blew it. For some reason, funded largely by the United States, yet very China centric.”
- The World Health Organization’s $4.8 billion budget is funded in part by cosponsors, foundations and governments, with the U.S. providing around $111 million in 2017, along with $401 million in voluntary funds. The Trump administration has already requested a reduction of $65 million for 2021.
- As he has been, Trump again pointed to his travel restriction of foreign nationals from China on January 31 as a forward-thinking move to stop the coronavirus spread following the WHO’s declaration of a public health emergency on January 30 when there were cases in 18 countries, though the administration didn’t follow up with other broad federal measures until calling a national emergency on March 13, two days after WHO declared the outbreak a pandemic.
- Trump remarked the WHO was critical of his travel restrictions. The organization didn’t recommend them, but on February 11, the WHO released a statement that restrictions can be helpful for countries in the beginning phases of an outbreak to better prepare, but that such restrictions “need to be in short duration, proportionate to the public health risks and be reconsidered regularly as the situation evolves.” The U.S. restriction is still in place, though 40,000 people have traveled between China and the U.S. since the ban, according to the New York Times.
Tangent: In February and early March, as European countries and some parts of the U.S. such as the Seattle area reported rising infections and imposed social distancing restrictions, Trump repeatedly downplayed the severity of the impending crisis. “When you have 15 people, and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero, that’s a pretty good job we’ve done,” Trump said on February 26. Trump has put the blame on the Chinese government for not sharing how devastating the coronavirus had become. At Tuesday’s briefing, Trump also said he only just recently saw a memo from his trade adviser Peter Navarro that was shared with the administration in late January that warned the outbreak could cost trillions of dollars and spread to millions of citizens.
Key Background: The U.S. leads the world in confirmed cases of the coronavirus with 387,547, more than the trailing Spain, Italy and France combined. Mortality rates have been lower than Italy and Spain but currently stand at 12,722. The first report of an American contracting the coronavirus occurred on January 21 in Washington State.
Further Reading: Forbes’ Time Line Of The Coronavirus