WASHINGTON — President Trump said Tuesday that the United States would halt funding to the World Health Organization, the global health agency that has been a leading voice in coordinating the world’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The shocking announcement appears to be in response to Trump’s anger over the WHO’s criticisms of U.S. policy.

“They’ve been wrong about a lot of things,” Trump said. “We’re going to put a hold on money [sent] to the WHO. We’re going to put a very powerful hold on it.”

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Later in the briefing, Trump said his announcement was not a decision to end all U.S. funding for the agency, but rather a chance to give his administration the chance to “look at it.” The WHO did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The U.S. has provided the agency with $893 million during the agency’s current two-year funding period, which includes about $236 million in dues. That funding accounts for about 14.67% of the WHO’s total funding, according to the organization’s website. The WHO is also notoriously cash-strapped; the annual dues members companies pay to support its annual budget have been frozen for more than a decade.

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The WHO has been sounding the alarm over the coronavirus since early January. By late February the group’s director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, urged countries to prepare — before the U.S. had widespread community transmission of the virus. The WHO declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic on March 11.

On Tuesday evening, Trump insisted that the WHO “called it wrong” when it came to Covid-19.

“They really called every aspect wrong,” he said. “They said there’s no big deal, there’s no big problem.”

Trump also lashed out at the WHO for criticizing his decision in January to block travel to the U.S. from certain countries. Officials at the agency never explicitly criticized that decision.

“They actually criticized and disagreed with my travel ban at the time I did it, and they were wrong,” Trump said.

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Public health experts did criticize Trump’s initial travel bans, suggesting they can make responding to an outbreak more challenging. While officials at the WHO did not call out either the U.S. or other countries’ bans, they have advised against travel bans in this pandemic, as in past outbreaks, because they can “divert resources from other interventions,” according to agency guidelines dated Feb. 29.

It’s also unclear whether Trump’s travel ban was successful, as he claims. While public health experts have suggested it may have bought the U.S. time to prepare for the pandemic, it did not stop cases from arriving in the U.S. And many believe the U.S. squandered the extra time it bought.

Tom Bollyky, director of the global health program at the Council on Foreign Relations, who is tracking Covid-19 cases globally, suggested the same was true for this pandemic, in a series of tweets on Tuesday.

“Travel bans neither stopped the spread of this novel coronavirus nor prevented it from becoming a pandemic,” Bollyky said on Twitter.

Jimmy Kolker, a longtime U.S. diplomat and former assistant secretary for global affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services, called Trump’s hold on funding “counterproductive to our interests as well as to global health,” and “unethical.”

“If the U.S. abandons that leadership, there’s a real risk that other countries will take the easy way out and say, ‘Well, my contribution is going to be insignificant because the U.S. isn’t paying, so why should I bother?'” he said. “It’s not going to achieve any result that he or others have connected to this in terms of how China has behaved.”

The announcement, which came during Trump’s daily press briefing Tuesday evening, came following a tweet criticizing the WHO earlier in the day.

“The W.H.O. really blew it. For some reason, funded largely by the United States, yet very China centric. We will be giving that a good look. Fortunately I rejected their advice on keeping our borders open to China early on. Why did they give us such a faulty recommendation?” Trump tweeted.

Trump’s claims that the WHO is “China-centric” are the latest in a growing trend of conservative criticisms waged at the organization. Trump’s remarks come on the heels of the calls in late March for an investigation into the WHO by Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.). 

Helen Branswell contributed reporting. 

  • IN MY OPINION: AFTER THE “SMOKE CLEARS” BUT AS SOON AS POSSIBLE -AMERICANS SHOULD FORM “A BENGHAZI – LIKE” INVESTIGATIVE COMMITTEE IN THE HOUSE AND/OR IN THE SENATE TO ASSERT AND VERIFY A CHRONOLOGY OF THE OUTBREAK OF THE CORONAVIRUS AND BRING TO LIGHT WHO DID WHAT TO WHOM – WHEN-WHERE-HOW-HOW MUCH-HOW MANY-AND WHY? —THIS WOULD GIVE US A PICTURE OF WHAT THE U.S. HAS TO DO IN ORDER TO BE PREPARED FOR OTHER PANDEMIC DISEASES OR CATASTROPHIC EVENTS THAT WILL ONE WAY OR ANOTHER WILL “INFECT OR AFFECT” THE U.S. AND OTHER COUNTRIES IN THE WORLD. — AN INVESTIGATION OF THE WAY THE CORONAVIRUS OUTBREAK WAS HANDLED-INCLUDING UP TO “SEVERAL YEARS” BACK-AND AMERICA’S EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING FROM THE WHOLE EXPERIENCE – SHOULD GIVE US A BETTER PICTURE OF WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE AND HOW MUCH IT WILL COST. — SEMPER FI!

  • Oh, poor Donny. WHO criticized his travel ban. Guess what – it didn’t work. “Since Chinese officials disclosed the outbreak of a mysterious pneumonialike illness to international health officials on New Year’s Eve, at least 430,000 people have arrived in the United States on direct flights from China, including nearly 40,000 in the two months after President Trump imposed restrictions on such travel, according to an analysis of data collected in both countries” .https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/04/us/coronavirus-china-travel-restrictions.html

    • IN MY OPINION: DANIEL – YOU ARE AIRTIGHT RIGHT! — THAT IS THE WAY I SAW IT AFTER DOING THE RESEARCH FOR FACTS. — TRUMP IS USING “FASCIST TACTICS” TO BLAME OTHERS FOR HIS FAILURES SINCE HIS “FEET DRAGGING” DURING THE INITIAL PHASE OF THE OUTBREAK LET TO A LOT OF DEATHS ACROSS AMERICA (AND COUNTING) THAT SOME OF HIS OWN “SEDUCED SUPPORTERS” MAY BLAME HIM FOR THEM! — IN MY OPINION: IT WAS TRUM’S INCOMPETENCE TO TAKE PROPER AND IMMEDIATE ACTION AS POTUS – THAT LED TO MORE DEATHS THAN WHAT AMERICA WOULD HAVE SUFFERED. —SEMPER FI!

  • The WHO will not acknowledge Taiwan as a country due to their ties with China. They praise China’s actions during this crisis in full disregard for China’s suppression of the severity of the virus and it’s spread. The WHO is corrupt and cow tow to China. They down played the seriousness of this virus and it’s spread. Stop playing partisan politics with your editorial. Trump is a bad leader in many ways, but he’s right on stopping the funding of a corrupt agency that utterly fails to fulfill their job description.

    • Nathan,
      You are so right! WHO’s President is the China’s loyal dog. Taiwan had 100 cases as March and you don’t hear the President of WHO congratulating Taiwan nor South Korea for the successful handling of Wuhan Virus. China!!!??? Let’s be serious! I would also cut the funding to such a manipulative and corrupt organization! To provide funds would mean that you agree with their actions and agreeing with their actions will put you on the same levels as the genocide kings: China and WHO

    • IN MY OPINION: WHATEVER THE “WHO” DID OR DID NOT DO WILL NOT ERASE TRUMP’S INCOMPETENCE IN HANDLING THE INITIAL OUTBREAK OF THE CORONAVIRUS: HE FAILED AMERICA “GACHO” BY TRYING TO BLAME THE DEMOCRATS FOR USING IT AS HOAX. — IN MY OPINION: AMERICA HAS SUFFERED MORE DEATH THAN IT WOULD HAVE SUFFERED IF TRUMP AND HIS CRONIES HAD PREPARED TO COMBAT THE SPREAD OF PANDEMIC DISEASES IN ACCORDANCE TO THE MANUAL GIVEN TO THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION WITH AMPLE TIME. — NOW – YOU MAY LOOK FOR A WAY TO DENY- BLAME THE “WHO” – OR WIGGLE OUT OF THE TRUTH! — SEMPER FI!

    • I agree:
      Per Tedros,”My short message is please quarantine politicizing COVID – the unity of your country will be very important to defeat this dangerous virus. Without unity we assure you even any country that may have a better system will be in more trouble. That’s our message,” he said.

      So, why doesn’t WHO accept Taiwan as a member and read Taiwan’s early warning about human to human transmission of the virus? Is it not politic?
      Even if they can not verify what China said, they can tell other countries that information is from China which WHO can not verify.

  • “A decision that appears to be in response to the global agency’s criticism of the way the U.S. has been handling the Covid-19 crisis.” What?? That’s called editorializing Stat News. I’m disappointed in you – I’ve been counting on you to remain neutral and factual. Americans do NOT like to be told how to think!

  • I do not like the Comments sections of STAT articles going into politics, as it chases away the doctor, nurses and researchers who have something worthwhile to say – but this article is inevitably political.
    I am not at all a rightwinger but I favored Trump in the last election because we needed nationalism, needed to keep the wealth created by manufacturing in the US, needed to confront China so they did not become THE world superpower, and I felt illegal immigration is a disaster for the country in multiple ways.
    It was obvious Trump had many faults, but the political system, it’s corruption in my view, lead to all other candidates being either directly against these policies or obviously indifferent and insincere about implementing them. I did not feel certain Trump was going to do as he said -he could have been lying, telling the angry people like me what we wanted to hear – but he was the ONLY one saying it.
    So, all that is my way of saying – do not blame me for Trump’s many faults – it’s YOUR fault if you were against any candidate having the same policies – the Democrats decided they did not care about some of these, and were going to actively encourage illegal immigration. The Repubs in theory care about nationalism but do not actually do much – and they leave illegal immigration alone, always have, so that employers get cheap labor.
    So, Trump came along and gave people a choice- but,since the political system is so deeply corrupt, even though Trump’s policies were extremely popular, no one else adopted them. That is how bad it is now in the US – a proven recipe for success with the people, to win the most votes – I know Trump did not win the popular vote, but that was only because of constant lies about him, making him out to be a Ku Klux Klan leader by the media which of course was doing what big money wanted – keep everything as it had been – his policies are actually all very popular – but no one else would do the same things.

    So, we get Trump, and we got some good results – the extremely low unemployment and consequent rise in wages would never have taken place if unlimited illegal immigration had been allowed to continue as Clinton or any other President would have allowed – but we get a guy who never formally studied public policy, and public policy is a complex job- a very complex job- and he is not only inadequate at it, he also has little science background – and does not have people on tap to advise him – especially after the science advisory board was shamed into quitting because he claimed anthropogenic climate change is not a problem – which of course is nonsense, the science is clear, but what possible good did it do to force a board of people Trump would listen to and respect from giving him advice? How much damage is the media willing to do to innocent third parties, for the sake of their war with Trump?

    Anyway, getting back to the Wuhan virus – as long as we are talking about politics, I am calling it Wuhan virus – if a new virus emerged in San Francisco and they called it the San Francisco virus I am fine with that – and that is what was traditionally done, this “can’t name it after where it is from” thing is all PC BS in my view – Trump’s response was screwed up – as the article says, if his travel ban bought time, that time was (largely) squandered. He did not raise the alarm to the country, and raising the alarm is extremely important, as it is the only thing that will change people’s behavior. He did not procure the supplies needed to deal with a huge epidemic. He did not, as far as I can determine, do anything to get money to the biotech world, to get vaccines and medicines tested and in production. He did not, apparently, formulate an overall game plan for when the epidemic arrived. He seems to have been in denial about what was going to happen, even though, knowing the travel ban could not have kept the disease out of the country, coming at it did almost two months after the epidemic started, with 10,000 people per day coming in from China during that time, he had to know there were hundreds of cases here -with no way to identify who they were.

    But, in defense of Trump – other countries made the same mistakes – and, the man the media are touting as the new hero of the epidemic, Andrew Cuomo, was very resistant to any kind of shutdown or quarantine until long, long after Trump had begun to take action – and his public health people seem to have been incompetent on every level. The schools were kept open, until long after the parents had demanded they close – and, it is clear, his administration did not adequately prepare for the epidemic surge – does not have the machines they need, has makeshift morgues, is going to bury people in the park temporarily, and so forth – the worst mess in the US by far- but somehow he is a hero? Incredible.

    If you actually look at the history of the pandemic, as much as we know of it, the political leaders to blame are Xi JinPing, who allowed the wet markets and did not respond fast enough to the outbreak, and of course suppressed information the world science community needed to fight it. Tedros of the WHO, who lied about what China was doing and failed his main job of preparing the people for the disease by warning them adequately – = and then Trump, who badly screwed up the Federal response, though of course you can say Cuomo was worse than Trump for the people of New York. Ditto for de Blasio, who would not close the schools, would not warn people, and so on.

    Trump is right to demand better from the WHO, even though of course he is to blame for more than he will admit, my only concern is, is it at all responsible to cut funding now, when they are likely working as best they can on the pandemic? I doubt it. Bad as they did before, Tedros’ lying to cover for the Chinese government is not a current issue, it needs to be addressed later, I fear Trump is just making things worse, WHO should be given all the money they can possibly use right now.

    The

  • The coronavius death rate is supposedly 1%. The US population is 334M. We should expect 3.4M deaths, anything less would a victory IMO.

  • Sam, you tell a lot of lies and half-truths. Lots of quotes based on what we knew at the time. Hindsight is always 20/20. Why are you focused on words and not his actions? I know – because they don’t support your agenda. He never called the coronavirus a hoax. That’s a lie. Where are those 2 million lives lost Navarro projected in mid-January, after the president banned travel from China for which liberals blasted him for being racist, xenophic, and all the usual empty words? How is the president pushing pills? He’s the one who said we should look at hydroxychloroquine which is now showing great promise. What illicit treatment that is now killing people did he push? So much misinformation. TDS is real. You’re a perfect example of it. What you’ll do now is simply deflect to something unrelated and go on with your ridiculous assertions. Says everything about you and nothing about anyone else.

    p.s. Ivanka closed her fashion lines. You resort to old, irrelevant news because you have nothing else.

  • Blaming the WHO means you’re not old enough to remember:

    JAN 22
    “We have it totally under control. … It’s going to be just fine.”
    — Donald Trump

    JAN 30
    “We think we have it very well under control. We have very little problem in this country at this moment — five. And those people are all recuperating successfully. But we’re working very closely with China and other countries, and we think it’s going to have a very good ending for it. So that I can assure you.”
    — Donald Trump

    FEB 24
    “The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA. … Stock market starting to look very good to me”
    — Donald Trump

    FEB 25
    “You may ask about the coronavirus, which is very well under control in our country. We have very few people with it, and the people that have it are … getting better. They’re all getting better. … As far as what we’re doing with the new virus, I think that we’re doing a great job.”
    — Donald Trump

    FEB 26
    “And again, 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.”
    — Donald Trump

    • Quick chase:
      4/7/20: 1939 DEAD in 24 hours

      TOTAL CASES
      399,886
      TOTAL DEATHS
      12,907

      He wanted churches open for Easter.
      The US may witness close to 4,000 deaths on Easter Sunday.

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