U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio is supporting a review of U.S. funding for the World Health Organization (WHO) after President Donald Trump floated putting a hold on that money.
Trump mistakenly announced that hold was already in motion Tuesday as he criticized the WHO’s response to the novel coronavirus outbreak.
“Well be looking into that very carefully,” Trump said at a Tuesday news conference.
“And 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.”
Just minutes later, Trump was asked by a reporter about his announcement the U.S. was “going to put a hold” on that money. Trump then claimed he never made the statement uttered a few minutes before.
“Is the time to freeze funding to the WHO during a pandemic?” one reporter asked.
“No, maybe not,” Trump replied. “I mean I’m not saying I’m going to do it. But we are going to look at it.”
In a statement late Tuesday night, Rubio backed such a review.
“The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) used the WHO to mislead the world,” Rubio said. “The organization’s leadership is either complicit or dangerously incompetent. I will work with the Trump Administration to ensure the WHO is independent and has not been compromised by the CCP before we continue our current funding.”
Trump has repeatedly criticized the WHO for speaking out against travel bans as the virus spread from China throughout the world.
The President established partial travel restrictions on China on Jan. 31 in response to the spread. Those partial restrictions did slow travel from China, but nearly 40,000 people still flew to the U.S. after Trump’s action.
But even weeks later, the WHO continued to “advise against the application of travel or trade restrictions to countries experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks.”
Until mid-January, the WHO also said there was no evidence the virus could be transmitted between humans.
Rubio and other critics argue the WHO was attempting to avoid punishing China for the virus’s spread. The Senator has backed reviewing U.S. funding for the organization even before Trump’s comments Tuesday.
The U.S. provided $58 million in funding to the WHO this year.
While Trump is now criticizing the WHO, he also spent weeks downplaying the danger of the virus even after installing those partial travel restrictions on China.
On Feb. 26, Trump predicted the number of known U.S. cases — which sat at 15 at the time — would be close to zero “within a couple of days.” There are more than 400,000 cases of the virus as of Wednesday morning.
And even into March, Trump was comparing the effect of the novel coronavirus to the common flu.
“So last year 37,000 Americans died from the common Flu,” Trump wrote on Twitter.
“It averages between 27,000 and 70,000 per year. Nothing is shut down, life & the economy go on. At this moment there are 546 confirmed cases of CoronaVirus, with 22 deaths. Think about that!”