President Trump on Wednesday renewed his criticism of the World Health Organization, charging that the group was “China-centric” and pledging that the US would review its financial commitment to the organization.
“Hundreds of millions of dollars has been paid to the World Health Organization and last year it was $452 million and China paid $42 million,” the president said during the daily Coronavirus Task Force briefing at the White House.
“We spend $452 million and everything seems to be China’s way. That is not fair to us and fair to the world,” he said, noting that the WHO had criticized the travel restrictions on China he imposed on Jan. 31.
The president was sharply critical of the WHO’s Jan. 14 tweet that there was no human-to-human transmission of the coronavirus, a statement based on erroneous information from the Chinese communist government.
“I think they have to get their priorities right and everyone has to be treated properly, every country, and it does not seem that way, so we are going to do a study and determine what we are doing,” the president continued, referring to the US contribution to the WHO
Earlier during the briefing, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo took a more measured tone when asked about the WHO and whether Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus should be replaced.
“This is not the time to be — to be doing that kind of change. There’ll be a lot of time to look back and see how the World Health Organization performed,” Pompeo said.
“This is not the time for retribution, but it is still the time for clarity and transparency.”
Earlier Wednesday, Tedros said he “doesn’t care” about attacks against him, following Trump’s criticism that the organization “really blew” its coronavirus response and that he won’t get involved in mudslinging.
“I don’t care who says what about me. I prepare to focus on saving lives,” Tedros said.
“Why would anyone in their right, conscious mind think about his personal attack, ignoring the bigger challenge that we’re facing as humanity? We don’t do politics in WHO.”
Trump had accused the organization of pro-China bias and said he was placing a “very powerful hold” on funding to them before reversing himself later during Tuesday’s briefing.
“They called it wrong. They really — they missed the call,” Trump said about the WHO, which declared a world health emergency on Jan. 30, a time when the president was still minimizing the impact of the threat.
In response to the criticism, Tedros said they’re “doing everything” to fight the virus but conceded that “in the process, we may make mistakes.”
“We aren’t angels. We are human beings, we make mistakes like other human beings,” Tedros said, an apparent reference to his earlier trust in data supplied by the Chinese, which later proved misleadingly optimistic.
He then called on the US and China to prioritize “honest leadership,” saying that “unity is the only option to defeat this virus.”
“The US and China should come together and fight this dangerous enemy,” he said. “They should come together to fight it.”
Tedros also called on world leaders to “quarantine politicizing” as they band together to battle the infectious disease.
Trump during the briefing said: “I agree with him,” when asked about Tedros assertion that this was not the time to politicize the spreading pandemic.
He said that he believes that the US would continue to contribute to the WHO — despite Trump’s threats to pull the plug on funding.
“With unity, with solidarity, at the national level, global level, resources will not be a problem,” he said. “We are asking [leaders] to quarantine politicizing. We are asking for genuine solidarity. It will come from all including the US.”
He said failure to work together across the globe on the coronavirus response could be catastrophic.
“We will have many body bags in front of us if we don’t behave,” he said, adding that “when there are cracks at the national level and global level, that’s when the virus succeeds.”
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