The State Department sent formal notice that the Trump administration intends to fully withdraw from the World Health Organization by the middle of next year. In the meantime, the administration says it will withhold payments to the WHO and begin to recall American staff that have been seconded to the WHO from the US Department of Health and Human Services.
The Trump administration is now starting to take action to effectuate a White House announcement from May stating its intention to pull out of the WHO.
The decision to walk away from the WHO is motivated entirely by President Trump’s parochial political interests.
President Trump plainly wants to scapegoat the WHO for his mishandling of this crisis. This is not conjecture — it’s fact.
Here’s the evidence.
The first indication that the Trump administration would seek to shift blame to the WHO came on April 17, when the White House issued an ultimatum to the WHO in which the Trump administration said it would withhold funding for the WHO unless the WHO enacted an unspecified set of reforms. This announcement came about six weeks after President Trump infamously stated that the number of cases in the US would soon go from 15 to zero.
One month later, ostensibly for not having acted on the vague reforms issued in the White House ultimatum, Donald Trump sent a letter to WHO Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in which Trump said he had permanently frozen US funding to the WHO.
Unlike the ultimatum the White House issued in April, this letter from Trump to Tedros offered a very detailed account of his grievances with the World Health Organization. The letter is three pages long, and includes no less than 14 bullet points detailing the WHO’s supposed failings.
The very first sentence of the very first bullet point justifying America’s withdrawal from the WHO is perhaps the most damning:
The World Health Organization consistently ignored credible reports of the virus spreading in Wuhan in early December 2019 or even earlier, including reports from the Lancet medical journal. The World Health Organization failed to independently investigate credible reports that conflicted directly with the Chinese government’s official accounts, even those that came from sources within Wuhan itself .
Except…this is a complete fabrication. There were no “reports from the Lancet medical journal.” The first report about the new coronavirus did not appear in the Lancet until late January 2020.
In other words, the very first reason cited by Donald Trump to justify his decision to pull the US out of the WHO was premised on a lie to smear the WHO.
Here is the Editor of The Lancet
Dear President Trump – You cite The Lancet in your attack on WHO. Please let me correct the record. The Lancet did not publish any report in early December, 2019, about a virus spreading in Wuhan. The first reports we published were from Chinese scientists on Jan 24, 2020. pic.twitter.com/Vx6mDpZJHx
— richard horton (@richardhorton1) May 19, 2020
The White House lied about the existence of a study to make the WHO look bad and justify a political narrative that the WHO — and not the US president — reacted slowly to the coronavirus outbreak. And now, as COVID-19 continues to kill about 1,000 Americans every day, the White House is seeking to advance this narrative by taking concrete steps to withdraw from the WHO. This move will prolong the pandemic by knee-capping one institution that is coordinating the international response to COVID-19. And in so doing, the US withdrawal from the World Health Organization will prolong the suffering and economic dislocation caused by COVID-19 both in the United States and around the world — all to satiate parochial electoral interests ahead of the US elections.