Trump rejected invitation to speak to WHO conference
President Trump rejected an invitation to speak at a virtual meeting of the World Health Organization (WHO), a body that he has repeatedly targeted over its response to the coronavirus outbreak.
“I’ll be giving them a statement sometime in the near future. But I chose not to give a statement,” Trump told reporters Monday. “I think they’ve done a very sad job in the last period of time.”
“They’re a puppet of China. They’re China-centric, to put it nicer,” he added.
The WHO earlier this month invited Trump to speak on the first day of the World Health Assembly, an annual oversight convention that is now in its 73rd year, Axios reported, citing two sources familiar with the situation.
“A broad cross section of leaders from around the world have been invited to speak during the high level welcome and potentially at other points in the assembly,” WHO spokesperson Tarik Jašarević told The Hill. “Not every leader who was invited accepted or was available to speak.”
The WHO also invited Chinese President Xi Jinping to give a speech at the global health meeting as part of an effort to “create some sense of solidarity,” a source added.
But the person told the news outlet that the president wants nothing to do with the United Nations body responsible for international public health right now. He declined the WHO’s invite through the U.S. Mission in Geneva, the sources said.
“If the WHO had done its job, and not enabled China’s refusal to be transparent, the world would likely be in a very different place right now,” a senior White House official told Axios. “Now is the time for answers and transparency, not a photo opportunity aimed at conveying a false sense of solidarity.”
Xi spoke before the assembly and pledged to put $2 billion toward the global fight to combat the pandemic. German chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron were also among the world leaders to speak.
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar spoke before the assembly in Trump’s absence. The administration official delivered a prepared video denouncing the WHO’s “failure” to sufficiently warn the world about the threat of the coronavirus, Stat News noted.
“We must be frank about one of the primary reasons this outbreak spun out of control,” Azar said. “There was a failure by this organization to obtain the information that the world needed, and that failure cost many lives.”
The comments from Azar echoed the criticism Trump has repeatedly made about WHO in recent months. The president has claimed that the WHO failed to give the U.S. proper warning about the virus. He announced in mid-April that he would halt funding for the organization pending a review.
While speaking at the virtual gathering Monday, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that he would support an independent review of the global response to the coronavirus.
“I will initiate an independent evaluation at the earliest appropriate moment to review experience gained and lessons learned, and to make recommendations to improve national and global pandemic preparedness and response,” Tedros said.
The comments came after more than 120 nations signed onto a resolution urging a comprehensive investigation into the way the coronavirus pandemic has been handled.
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