The Irish Times view on Donald Trump and the WHO: an unconscionable move

The World Health Organisation is not perfect, but it seems likely that it will come out of this pandemic far better than the US president

In time the deference shown by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to China's leadership as it desperately sought access to Wuhan early in the coronavirus outbreak, may be seen as excessive. But to say that its reluctance publicly at that time to criticise Beijing rises to the offence of "severely mismanaging and covering up" the spread, or that "so much death has been caused by their mistakes," is unconscionable.

Donald Trump’s attack on and threat to investigate and defund the WHO is an outrageous calumny on an organisation which, more than any other, has shaken the world awake to the global dangers of the virus and then articulated authoritative benchmark standards for the international response. It has also, importantly, been at the forefront of warning of the devastating prospects of a second phase of the pandemic in the largely defenceless developing world.

In a typical bid to deflect attention from Barack Obama’s endorsement of Joe Biden’s candidacy and of criticism of his own constitutionally unfounded assertion of untrammeled power over state governors, Trump was actually accusing the WHO of making all of the mistakes that he has made since the virus first emerged.

The US president claims the WHO "willingly took China's assurances at face value", "pushed China's misinformation", and "fought" the US – an apparent reference to the agency's mild rebuke of his decision to close national borders against China as "ineffective in most situations".


And yet, as recently as late February – before some of the harshest criticism of Trump’s own inaction and early denialism – he was willing to commend the organisation and its work. “The coronavirus is very much under control in the USA,” he tweeted. “We are in contact with everyone and all relevant countries. CDC (US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention) & World Health have been working hard and very smart.…”

There will be a time for postmortems when the pandemic is under control.The WHO is not perfect, but it seems likely that it will come out of any such review far better than the US president.