President Trump drew fire from several lawmakers and critics after announcing Tuesday that he is halting funding to the World Health Organization regarding its response to the coronavirus outbreak.
Trump, who accused the organization of “severely mismanaging and covering up,” took issue with the agency’s criticism of his order to temporarily deny entry to the U.S. by foreign nationals who had recently been in China.
“With the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have deep concerns about whether America’s generosity has been put to the best use possible,” Trump said at a press briefing. “The reality is that the WHO failed to adequately obtain and share information in a timely and transparent fashion. It could have been contained at its source.”
WHO, informed of the first cases on Dec. 31, declared a global health emergency on Jan. 30 when the number of cases at the time hit 10,000.
Trump critics said although WHO was guilty of some missteps, Trump was using the agency as a scapegoat to cover up his own lack of attention early on toward the outbreak.
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), vice chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, sharply criticized Trump, saying that the WHO could have “been stricter with China” but that it still needs “our strong support” right now.
“Withholding funds for WHO in the midst of the worst pandemic in a century makes as much sense as cutting off ammunition to an ally as the enemy closes in,” Leahy said Tuesday. “The White House knows that it grossly mishandled this crisis from the beginning, ignoring multiple warnings and squandering valuable time, dismissing medical science, comparing COVID-19 to the common cold, and saying ‘everything will be fine.’”