KEY POINTS

  • The World Health Organization politely reminded Trump to stop politicizing the COVID-19 crisis
  • Its director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, warns politicizing the pandemic is "like playing with fire"
  • He admonished Trump to behave

The World Health Organization (WHO), which is leading the world's frantic fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, quickly criticized president Donald Trump for threatening to defund it and alleging its pro-China bias made the pandemic far worse than what it should have been.

WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus took vigorous exception at Trump's unfounded claims. He also admonished leaders “to behave” and not politicize the pandemic crisis.

Trump leveled his apparently off-the-cuff allegations Tuesday at the White House coronavirus briefing that saw him loudly declare his intention to defund WHO at one point, only to reverse his assertions a few minutes later.

Tedros said Trump's effort to exploit the COVID-19 pandemic to score political points is dangerous and will only lead to "many more body bags."

"Please don't politicize this virus," said Tedros in a briefing at the WHO headquarters in Geneva. He also urged political leaders to "please quarantine politicizing COVID."

"The focus of all political parties should be to save their people," Tedros pointed out. 

"The unity of your country will be very important to defeat this dangerous virus. Without unity we assure you even any country that may have a better system will be in more trouble."

Without naming Trump, Tedros said if a leader wants to have "many more body bags," then he can politicize the virus. But if this leader doesn't want more deaths, "then you refrain from politicizing it." He also warned politicizing the pandemic is "like playing with fire."

"No need to use COVID to score political points," Tedros went on to say. "You have many other ways to prove yourselves."

Tedros appealed to world leaders to do their utmost to combat the pandemic. He said if leaders care about their people, "please work across party lines, across ideology, across beliefs, across any differences, for that matter. We need to behave. That's how we can defeat this virus."

Tedros also urged governments to unite to defeat the pandemic. He said cooperation among world governments in the past has saved millions of lives from other diseases. Tedros pointed to the historic joint effort by the U.S. and the defunct Soviet Union to fight smallpox during the 1960s during the Cold War.

"The former U.S.S.R. and United States came together and agreed to eradicate smallpox and brought the whole world together with them," he said.

At that time, smallpox was killing two million people each year and infecting 15 million annually.

"The world could not tolerate that kind of disaster," said Tedros.

He urged the U.S. and China (the world's largest economies) to work together to fight the crisis. Tedros didn't address Trump's false claim WHO is biased in favor of China.

“The W.H.O. really blew it," Trump tweeted Tuesday. "For some reason, funded largely by the United States, yet very China centric. We will be giving that a good look. Fortunately I rejected their advice on keeping our borders open to China early on. Why did they give us such a faulty recommendation?”