President Trump said Friday the U.S. would halt its funding of the World Health Organization and pull out of the agency, accusing it of protecting China as the coronavirus pandemic took off. The move has alarmed health experts, who say the decision will undermine efforts to improve the health of people around the world.

In an address in the Rose Garden, Trump said the WHO had not made reforms that he said would have helped the global health agency stop the coronavirus from spreading around the world.

“We will be today terminating our relationship with the World Health Organization and redirecting those funds to other worldwide and deserving urgent global public health needs,” Trump said. “The world needs answers from China on the virus.”

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It’s not immediately clear whether the president can fully withdraw U.S. funding for the WHO without an act of Congress, which typically controls all federal government spending. Democratic lawmakers have argued that doing so would be illegal, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi threatened last month that such a move would be “swiftly challenged.”

The United States has provided roughly 15% of the WHO’s total funding over its current two-year budget period. A WHO spokesperson declined to comment Friday.

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Trump’s announcement came the same day that the U.S. mission in Geneva met with Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO director-general, about the country’s demands for WHO improvements. A source familiar with the meeting described it as constructive.

Some congressional Republicans have echoed Trump’s attacks on the agency, but in a statement Friday, Sen. Lamar Alexander, the chair of the Senate’s health committee, said he disagreed with Trump.

“Certainly there needs to be a good, hard look at mistakes the World Health Organization might have made in connection with coronavirus, but the time to do that is after the crisis has been dealt with, not in the middle of it,” said Alexander (R-Tenn.). “Withdrawing U.S. membership could, among other things, interfere with clinical trials that are essential to the development of vaccines, which citizens of the United States as well as others in the world need. And withdrawing could make it harder to work with other countries to stop viruses before they get to the United States.”

Lawrence Gostin, the faculty director at Georgetown’s O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law, called Trump’s decision “a dangerous move.”

“It’s making an earth-shattering decision in the middle of the greatest health crisis we’ve experienced literally out of pique and whim, without any deliberative process,” Gostin said.

The WHO has repeatedly said it was committed to a review of its response, but after the pandemic had ebbed. Last month, Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, also said the “postmortem” on the pandemic should wait until the emergency was over.

But as the Trump administration’s response to pandemic has come under greater scrutiny, with testing problems and a lack of coordination in deploying necessary supplies, Trump has sought to cast further blame on China and the WHO for failing to snuff out the spread when the virus was centered in China. During his remarks, Trump alleged, without evidence, that China pressured WHO to mislead the world about the virus.

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“The world is now suffering as a result of the malfeasance of the Chinese government,” Trump said. “China’s coverup of the Wuhan virus allowed the disease to spread all over the world, instigating a global pandemic that has cost more than 100,000 American lives, and over a million lives worldwide.” (That last claim is not true; globally, there have been about 360,000 confirmed deaths from Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.)

Trump’s phrasing highlights the buildup of China-U.S. tensions amid the pandemic. After a Chinese government spokesman suggested, without evidence, that the U.S. Army first brought the novel coronavirus to Hubei province, Trump retaliated by using the terms “Wuhan virus” and “Chinese virus” — words widely condemned as racist, and which coincided with a rash of racist incidents targeting Asian Americans.

Experts say that if the U.S. leaves the WHO, the influence of China will only grow.

“Global health was our bipartisan moral leadership that had been preserved through this administration,” said Amanda Glassman, executive vice president of the Center for Global Development. “And right now … that falls apart. It’s really to me tragic that this one space that was really about our moral leadership and our convictions and soft power … that we’re now going to let that go in the midst of a pandemic.”

Glassman said there are thousands of U.S. employees at the WHO and its regional body for the Americas, and that the U.S. is home to 82 WHO collaborating centers.

When Trump earlier this month threatened to yank U.S. funding in a letter, Tedros would only say during a media briefing that the agency was reviewing it. But he and other officials stressed that the agency had a small budget — about $2.3 billion every year — relative to the impact the agency had and what it was expected to do.

Mike Ryan, head of the WHO’s emergencies program, said the U.S. funding provided the largest proportion of that program’s budget. In addition to the pandemic, the program also works to combat HIV, tuberculosis, polio, and other diseases.

“So my concerns today are both for our program and … working on how we improve our funding base for WHO’s core budget,” Ryan said. “Replacing those life-saving funds for front-line health services to some of the most difficult places in the world — we’ll obviously have to work with other partners to ensure those funds can still flow. So this is going to have major implications for delivering essential health services to some of the most vulnerable people in the world and we trust that other donors will if necessary step in to fill that gap.”

This story has been updated with reaction to the president’s announcement. 

Lev Facher contributed reporting.

  • This is clearly about Trump’s trying to shift the blame for over one hundred thousand deaths in the United States onto others. And, any other country, or multi-lateral agreement will serve that purpose, whether its the WHO, the UN, Europe, China or his neighbouring countries, Canada and especially Mexico. Any other country except Russia…interestingly.

  • Looking at it from the Netherlands (yes, in Europe, as I hope Americans still know) it is clearly another step in the sequence that started with “America First”. Now it has become “America Only” and in a few years it will end with “America Alone”.
    And Europe will have to team up with China, India and Russia.
    Are those developments really beneficial to the interests of the USA and its inhabitants?

    • Good Luck ! I can Tell You- bad choice! You did not learn anything from history! I do think USA saved Europe in the Second World War! Lots of countries went under Russian influence- the result was catastrophic! Forget about Trump, he does not represent USA. Here are compassionate people, besides what you see in the news, it is a true democracy, and the actual president will be judged by history. Same European leaders that are loosing their common sense now. So my answer is – NEVER friend with Russia and China!

  • Best way to protest such nonsense is to assemble. Organize/have large gatherings out in the most public places that can be thought of. Do it for days on end. Show them that you have no faith or belief in the garbage info that they try to force feed you. Protest it all, the dogmatic social distancing, the ridiculous pathetic face mask nonsense, everything. It’s PATHETIC believing in Phantoms and ghosts/the bogie man. Absolutely utterly pathetic to the irrational dogma x 100,000,000,000. IT is So so Pathetic being made to believe any of this garble doo garbage that is force feed by the junk media. SURE alright Yeah, let’s just make believe 24/7 dressing up in costumes & run away/distance ourselves from all other life forms. Pathetic…………irrational…………………..dogma………………….

    Great places to have these gatherings/assemblies are directly outside the locations of the major mainstream junk/garbage media outlets. NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN, FOX, ESPN, Microsoft, GOOGLE, APPLE, FACEBOOK etc….. Let’s do it. Get it organized.

    MORE PROTEST EVERYDAY. If you don’t want such PHANTOMS & GHOST to be used against you again in the future we’ve got to push back harder. I mean real hard. More protest every single day. Larger #’s.

  • We are not dependent on your health system, health care or your list of euphemized health phases/words you use to butter up and fool the naive and week so you can degrade their/our bodily systems to an even higher degree then what you’ve already done with your completely atrocious anti life out right crimes on humanity. Crimes on humanity which are of the highest order.

    We depend on, clean pure air, clean pure fresh water, clean pure fresh food(frugivorous digestive system and Biology) and a clean pure fresh environment all of which you guys & week corrupt naive fearful humans have done their best to compromise and neglect us of. We have none of these basic dependencies met right now in this time period or for as long as I can remember. You fools whom are supposed to be managing these most critical resources along with the best interest of the people are just F-ing up these most basic bottom line life support systems that we are so dependent on. And it sure looks like this is being done/has been done by design/on purpose/intentional.
    When we have these basic dependencies met the only part of the medical system we need is accident based trauma & poison units. We sure as hell don’t need the other 99% of this mostly parasitic industry….

    Why is our water infiltrated with brain and nerve damaging poisons? What is our food supply grown in/with. Why is our food supply grown with brain and nerve damaging poisons? Why is our air being sprayed day after day? Why is our environment being destroyed?

  • Why does his current actions sound like he is trying to start a war … Even if he doesent have the power to fully pull funding, his statements and actions are … Im flabbergasted and ashamed of our president. Why can’t we have competence why are we stuck with a i dident vote for him, i voted agenst them mentality

  • Another ridiculous and dangerous attempt to distract from his own incompetence and corruption, this further proves that TRUMP IS UNFIT TO BE THE PRESIDENT OF THE US. At a time of a worldwide coronavirus pandemic and economic depression of incomprehensible magnitude, we need to be united and cooperating with every other country and health promoting organization to most rapidly stop the destruction of our society and the world’s largest impending famine and further deterioration. Instead, Trump is picking fights with everyone, from former Obama aides to his Democratic opponent to voter protection efforts to China trade agreements and cooperative Covid-19 vaccine development and, now, shockingly even for Trump, 5he World Health Organization. Enough is enough and we must do everything to restore competence and honesty and trust to our federal government before it is too late.

    • I voted for Trump against Crooked and Incompetent Hillary, but the Virus served a knockout blow for me as regards Trump as President. I can not vote for him again. I certainly am not voting for Biden–an almost 80 year old has been, if he ever was a has. So I will write in Howdy Doody if those two are the candidates.

      While I agree that Trump has shown himself to be unft to be CIC, I disagree with some of your reasoning.

      I have no concern that Trump is picking fights with former Obama aides. I was not a fan of Obama or his aides by the time his 8 years ended. In his case I voted for him over Nut Job McCaine. Obama was a major disappointment IMO and I did not vote for him for a second term. I voted for a third party candidate. Obama had plenty of opportunities to do good “stuff”, but failed miserably! In fact Obama did not Unite the country anymore than Trump. He picked fights with Republicans. Recall Obama picked fights with some of our allies like Israel, and didn’t follow through in Syria where at least hundreds of thousands died. The agreement with Iran was as bad as I can think of. He was a Pathetic CIC!

      Obama did not stock the warehouses with Ventilators. In fact to the best of my knowledge he had a contract for them to be made, but never followed through to see that the contract was met. Other needs were also not met as he relied on a Just In Time inventory system with much of that “stuff” coming from China. That is just plain WRONG!

      I would suggest to you that the Democrats have been “picking fights” with Trump since a year before he was even elected. They have been sickening with their attacks and yet you only mention Trump attacking them. I wonder–do you consider yourself a fair, unbiased individual? I can assure you that you come across as One Sided, Heavily Biased., Immature character!

      Do you actually think Trump was left with Fair Trade agreements, to include the one with China? If so, please return to Kindergarten!

      WHO made a pile of mistakes and we are paying their way in an unfair manner as compared to China. The head of Who has lots of “stuff” in his background that is highly questionable. He appears, along with some others, to be living well in 5 star hotels and expensive restaurants on our $400 Million. I do agree that this is NOT the right time to withdraw from this organization. But right after we beat this Virus, however long it takes, I would push for reforms or out we should run–and run fast!

      As far as restoring competence, honesty, and trust to our Federal Government, I have to ask what world you have been living in. All those wonderful qualities have been gone since the 60’s, never to be seen again. We have not had an Honest and Competent President that we trusted highly since the days of Harry Truman followed by IKE!

      It has been a good 60 years since we had Competence, Honesty and Truthfulness come from our leader in the White House.

      I still do agree with you that Trump’s time should be up. Unfortunately the Democrats are going to be offering us a Zero in Biden. Howdy Doody is my Man.

    • Response to Jo and Larry’s comments:
      I reread your comments and was pleased to see that at least Larry agrees with my feelings that this is the wrong time to withdraw from the WHO, and this should be reviewed, reforms attempted and decisions about cooperation through the WHO made AFTER the pandemic is under control not in the midst of it. Trading of accusations of blame, cutting off communications with other countries, organizations and related research endeavors are not helpful and indeed, in this case, can prolong the time and damage to our country as well as the rest of the world.

      I will put aside any judgements of my maturity and level of knowledge and political ideologies as I fo not engage in that sort of discussion on a public forum such as this and am always suspicious when someone uses such ad hominem attacks as their main argument. However, I am an experienced international infectious disease epidemiologist, in addition to being an MD-PhD Medical Scientist and Fellow of multiple scientific academies, so my following comments come from those experiences and not what I learned in kindergarten.
      The use of terms such as “Chinagate”, “Plandemic” and echoing the anti-Semitic tropes of “World Bank control of all global economies” are clear enough proof that at least Jo has totally succumbed to the Soviet conspiracy theory propaganda machine that has continued to function since its role in ensuring Trump’s election in 2016 and is ramping up a similar attack on the 2020 election process to ensure that they continue to have a US President they can easily influence.

      First, I have participated as an expert advisor/delegate on a number of WHO, PAWHO, and other UN related health organizations. I too found the level of spending on consultation fees, hosting and amenities provided as excessive given the reliance of those organizations on donations from member countries, and have always donated my consultation fees to a charitable organization attempting to provide direct assistance to those suffering and public health workers on the ground working to resolve the problem directly. But that doesn’t detract from my strong feelings that multi-level diplomatic and scientific collaboration and problem solving are all necessary for optimal and rapid resolution of a global health crisis. So I think your concerns about the excessive levels of spending by the WHO on amenities for its officers and consultants are valid, but not a good justification for the US withdrawing from participation and supporting a fair share of the work of the WHO. By your logic, the Secretary of State’s excessive use of government funds for lavish trips for him and his wife unrelated to official State business, and the subsequent firing of the Dept of State watchdog who was investigating those and other abuses of the Office of the Secretary of State would be grounds for the immediate firing (or at least suspension) of the Secretary of State and initiation of an independent investigation of Mr Pompeo’s actions, and whether the firing was retaliation against a Federal employee whose role was precisely to monitor and investigate fraud and abuses of power within the Department of State.

      Second, and most importantly, are accusations that I am being biased and one-sided in my criticisms of Trump’s record and behavior during the current crisis and there being a pattern of deflecting attention from President Trump’s critics by attacking them and questioning their motives and right to question his actions and statements, no matter how misleading and divisive those actions and Twitter messages have been. (Aside- just look at the President’s inflammatory tweets overnight regarding the protests occurring subsequent to the murder of a Black man by a white police officer in Minneapolis). Giving a list of what you think President Obama’s failings were is another example of the same distraction and blame-shifting tactics used by President Trump and his enablers. I ask you: what do President Obama’s actions and behavior towards persons with differing opinions have to do with the question that started this discussion, “Is President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the WHO in the middle of a global pandemic a wise decision?” Any complaints about Obama’s Presidency and giving them equivalency to the misguided and seemingly self-serving (and possibly treasonous) actions of President Trump are straight out of the Putin and Hitler playbooks- First attack the previous government and their accomplishments to justify your own ideological beliefs, no matter how extreme and anti-democratic they are, and then attack and try to muzzle the individuals and news organizations that attempt to report on the dangerous nature of those beliefs and actions. When Twitter labeled Trumps tweets claiming that mail-in balloting was an invitation for massive fraud as “not based on factual evidence”, based on the totality of evidence (including the conclusions of Trump’s own commission to investigate voter fraud after the 2016 election), his response was to threaten to withdraw Federal protections given to social media networks, and prosecute Twitter and any other social media source that dared to point out the unfounded nature of any of his statements. And this is at the same time that 1) a Federal court ruled against claims that there were anti-conservative biases among the various social media outlets in their procedures and policies for detecting and identifying the accuracy and sources of the posting of biased or inaccurate information on their sites; and 2) Trump himself has stated that his opposition to mail-in balloting was based on his own belief that if everyone eligible to vote was given that opportunity, “no Republican candidate would ever be elected to office.” And 3) in the context of Mitch McConnell’s refusal to hold Trump accountable for his actions during the so -called impeachment “trial”, and his continued insistence that the Federal government provide total indemnity protection to any business that reopens despite the lack of adequate control and monitoring of Covid19 transmissions in that State or workplace and that he can penalize “Blue” states relative to “Red”’state in terms of any Federal aid for their costs providing assistance, testing, financial assistance and tax abatement, and healthcare to their residents during the pandemic; and the President’s recent statement “That the only good Democrat is a dead Democrat!”, how can you give any moral, ethical or political equivalencies to the actions of President Trump and his enablers with that of President Obama or any prior American President?
      Really!

    • David,

      Sorry, I am rushed for time and this will be quick and in bullet form.

      1. I doubt we will ever agree politically. By the way, I was a U.S. Army Officer for three years 66-69 and spent 2 1/2 years overseas. I came back from military service and spent 29 years with a Fortune 500 Manufacturing Company as an Engineer and Production Manager. I do have a bit of a background in “Just-In-Time” Supply and Inventory systems.

      2. I really do appreciate your Background, Experience, Education and understanding as “an experienced international infectious disease epidemiologist, in addition to being an MD-PhD Medical Scientist and Fellow of multiple scientific academies”. You have fantastic credentials and it is my honor to address you. Thank You for your many contributions.

      3. You wrote: ” I will put aside any judgements of my maturity and level of knowledge and political ideologies as I fo not engage in that sort of discussion on a public forum such as this and am always suspicious when someone uses such ad hominem attacks as their main argument”.

      4. Then you proceeded to write IMHO adhominem attacks as your major argument. You even included “Hitler” in your attacks. That is not only Wrong, but is Sad.

      5. Let me know when Twitter blocks the words of Iran’s leaders when they tweet about destroying Israel. Now that is truly anti-semetic. What Trump has tweeted, as foolish as most of them are, is child’s play compared to Khamenei.

      6. You did not reply to my obviously true comment :
      “It has been a good 60 years since we had Competence, Honesty and Truthfulness come from our leader in the White House”.

      Yet you implied that we had Competence, Honesty and Truthfulness when Obama was there. That is just one sided bias on your part and is certainly not true. Except for his handling of this Virus, which has been pathetic, Trump has been more forthright, open on certain subjects and very truthful and honest. He tends to call it like it truly is.

      1. The mainstream press is very far, far left.
      2. A number of Presidents have signed unfair trade agreements.

      3. That same number has stood by and encouraged the manufacturing sector to leave this country.

      4. Obama’s agreement with Iran has to go down as one of the most lopsided and basically INCOMPETENT pieces of whatever that I have ever known. As far as foreign affairs, Obama was a complete ZERO. In fact as far as helping poor communities he was close to a perfect ZERO.

      Doctor, as far as I am concerned you are to be admired for your work and dedication to helping others. You are brilliant in that field.

      However, stick to that field. You are way over your head when it comes to politics.

  • I feel like he’s covering his mistake and trying to blame it on WHO. He failed to act when the virus first reported in the US. He said, “I think we did a good job…”
    Yeah……… Remember?

    • Who would have thought that on the 75th anniversary of the end of WWII, the USA would quit the fight against the coronavirus, by leaving WHO — the international body coordinating responses to it??

    • Wasn’t Fauci, the “expert” saying there was no need to worry, that it wouldn’t effect the U.S.? Gee, I could swear I remember those pronouncements…..

    • Larry- thank you for your response. However I was referring to Jo’s comments when I compared them to the dictatorial playbook of persons like Putin and Hitler and the antisemetic basis of world bank domination, so I must apologize for any confusion resulting from my trying to combine my comments about postings from two different persons.
      Perhaps I am biased when it comes to President Obama’s achievements as President. I knew him from the time he first ran for office in IL and we interacted at the University of Chicago when we both taught and conducted seminars here and at policy conferences in areas of mutual interest, such as healthcare reform. As a strong advocate for access to healthcare as a right rather than a privilege, I consider Obama’s passage of healthcare reform that extended healthcare coverage to 40 million Americans one of the most important achievements of his Presidency. And Trump’s continuing efforts to destroy the ACA, thus throwing away insurance for those 40 million persons in the midst of a pandemic that has many of our medical and public health facilities testing on the brink of collapse another example of his obsession to destroy our country in the misguided belief that the American people will then embrace him as “Dictator for Life.” Many of his current obsessions, like fighting mail in voting during the pandemic, are further examples that he is setting the stage for rejecting the results of the 2020 election. If he does refuse to give up his office after losing the election, as even his own party is seeing as quite possible, then we really be in a constitutional crisis and potential civil war the likes we haven’t seen since Abraham Lincoln’s “Emancipation Proclamation.”
      I pride myself in my knowledge of history and active participation in political discourse, particularly in matters like health inequalities, threats to our democracy and the role of science in setting public policy. But you and I have very different beliefs, and receive our information from very different sources that support our own set of beliefs. Unfortunately, the healthy and respectful debate between persons of differing beliefs and opinions has become a rarity in today’s hyper-partisan world. Hopefully discussions on scientific forums, such as Stat, can help us all find common ground.

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