President Donald Trump at the White House's daily coronavirus briefing on April 7, 2020.

  • President Donald Trump on Tuesday threatened to cut US funding to the World Health Organisation.
  • "We're going to put a hold on money spent to the WHO. We're going to put a very powerful hold on it and we're going to see," Trump told a White House briefing.
  • Minutes later he said he had not yet made a final decision on the cut.
  • "They seem to be very China-centric," the president said of the WHO. "And they seem to always err on the side of China, and we fund it, so I want to look into it."
  • The US is the WHO's biggest funder, contributing 14% to its budget. A top WHO director said the height of the coronavirus pandemic is "not the time to cut back on funding."
  • Many critics have said that the WHO was too positive in its assessment of China's early response to the outbreak.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

President Donald Trump on Tuesday threatened to cut US funding for the World Health Organisation (WHO) after accusing it of pro-China bias.

"We're going to put a hold on money spent to the WHO. We're going to put a very powerful hold on it and we're going to see," Trump said at the White House coronavirus task force briefing that day.

He made the announcement hours after attacking the organization in a tweet. "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," Trump wrote.

"Fortunately I rejected their advice on keeping our borders open to China early on," he added. "Why did they give us such a faulty recommendation?"

But later in the same briefing, Trump suggested that the funding cut had not been been decided, but repeated his accusation of pro-China bias.

Here's the full exchange:

Trump: We're just going to take a look at it. We fund it. And they seem to be, I said recently in social media, I said they seem to be very China-centric. That's a nice way of saying it. But they seem to be very China-centric. And they seem to always err on the side of China, and we fund it, so I want to look into it.

Reporter: A quick follow-up on that. So, is the time to freeze funding to the WHO during a pandemic of this magnitude?

Trump: No, maybe not. I mean, I'm not saying I'm going to do it, but we're going to look at it.

Reporter: You did say that you were going to do it.

Trump: No, I didn't. I said we're going to look at it, we're going to investigate it, we're going to look at it. But we will look at ending funding. Yeah. Because you know what? They called it wrong. And if you look back over the years even, everything seems to be very biased toward China. That's not right.

Dr Hans Kluge, the WHO's Europe director, said in response to Trump's remarks Wednesday: "We are still in the acute phase of a pandemic so now is not the time to cut back on funding," according to Reuters.

Dr Bruce Aylward, senior advisor to the WHO's director general, also said it was important that the organization work with China in the early stages of the outbreak. "It was absolutely critical in the early part of this outbreak to have full access to everything possible, to get on the ground and work with the Chinese to understand this," Aylward said, as cited by Reuters.

"This is what we did with every other hard hit country like Spain and had nothing to do with China specifically."

Aylware was recently slammed for appearing to ignore a Hong Kong reporter's question about whether the WHO would reconsider Taiwan's membership.

The World Health Organization assembly in Geneva, Switzerland, in May 2008.
According to the WHO's website, the US is its single biggest funder, contributing 14% of its budget.

The organisation has played a key role in amassing data on the outbreak, and providing guidance on the measures best suited to slowing its spread. It criticised Trump's decision to ban travelers from China in February, claiming the move could hurt economic growth.

After spending the initial weeks of the outbreak downplaying it, Trump has more recently claimed that the US was able to stem the outbreak by acting relatively early to ban travellers from China. Other countries have since followed suit with travel bans of their own.

Trump has also sought to highlight China's status as the source of the disease, calling the illness the "China virus," a move which has been criticized by the WHO as stoking xenophobia.

The president has long attacked international institutions, which he has in the past blamed for seeking to exploit the US and undermine his "America First" policies.

But Trump has not been alone in criticising the WHO's response to the pandemic, with many critics claiming that while the organisation was praising China's response to the outbreak, the country was suppressing key data on the extent of the problem.

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