Sen. Graham Vows, 'No More Money to the WHO Until They Get New People in Charge'

Patrick Goodenough | April 8, 2020 | 3:59am EDT
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WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom at a press conference in Geneva. (Photo by Fabrice Coffrini/AFP via Getty Images)
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom at a press conference in Geneva. (Photo by Fabrice Coffrini/AFP via Getty Images)

( – Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Tuesday night he would use his position as chairman of the Senate Appropriations State and foreign operations subcommittee to block any funding to the World Health Organization under its present leadership.

Graham was reacting to President Trump’s earlier warning that U.S. funding could be in jeopardy. The president accused the Geneva-based U.N. agency of being “very biased towards China” in its handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I’m going to take the burden off the president,” Graham told Fox News’s Martha MacCallum. “In the next appropriations bill, there’s not going to be any money for the WHO.”

“I’m in charge of the appropriations subcommittee. I'm not going to support funding the WHO under its current leadership,” Graham said. “They’ve been deceptive. They’ve been slow and they’ve been Chinese apologists.”

“I don’t think they’re a good investment, under the current leadership, for the United States. And until they change their behavior and get new leadership, I think it’s in America’s best interests to withhold funding.”

Graham accused the WHO of shielding China from legitimate criticism.

“No more money to the WHO until they get new people in charge will understand there that they’re there to help the world fight disease, not apologize for China.”

The U.S. has been the WHO’s biggest funder since 1948. Over the 2018-2018 biennial period, American taxpayers accounted for 15.8 percent of the overall budget, covering both assessed and voluntary contributions. The second-biggest funder, Britain, contributed  7.7 percent. China’s contribution amounted to 1.5 percent.

In its FY 2021 budget request, the administration has proposed sending the WHO $57.9 million, less than half the $122.6 million Congress allocated.

‘Pandemic incubator’

“Without China being irresponsible, lying to the world about the way the disease is transmitted, withholding information about the level of infection, silencing doctors, there would be no pandemic,” Graham charged.

“China is a pandemic incubator,” he said. “These ‘wet markets’ create conditions for the virus to spread [to] the human food chain, from wild animals like bats and monkeys. Without China there would be no coronavirus pandemic.”

Graham said he and Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) have sent a bipartisan letter to the WHO, criticizing its handling of the outbreak. He has also written to Chinese Ambassador to the U.S. Cui Tiankai urging China to shut down wet markets.

The Hainan market in Wuhan, which sold seafood but also living animals including snakes and marmots, was been linked to many of the early cases when the coronavirus outbreak first emerged late last year. Wuhan authorities closed it down on January 1.

Graham is among several Republican senators who have questioned WHO’s handling of the crisis.

In an April 1 op-ed, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) accused WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus of having “allowed Beijing to use the WHO to mislead the global community.”

Rubio said he would work with colleagues “to review U.S. contributions to the WHO,” adding that an investigation was needed “into the WHO’s unacceptably slow decision-making on whether to declare a global pandemic and into how China has compromised the integrity of the WHO.”

“When it comes to coronavirus, the WHO failed,” Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) said last week. “They need to be held accountable for their role in promoting misinformation and helping Communist China cover up a global pandemic.”

Scott said he has spoken to Senate Homeland Security Committee chairman Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.) about the possibility of an investigation.

“Dr. Tedros deceived the world,” tweeted Sen. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) at the weekend. “At one point, he even praised China’s ‘transparency during its coronavirus response efforts’ despite a mountain of evidence showing the regime concealed the severity of the outbreak. This deception cost lives.”

“Throughout the entire Coronavirus Pandemic, the WHO has consistently bent to the will of the Chinese Communist Party,” tweeted Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas). “It has lost the credibility necessary to be effective and a reevaluation of its leadership is rightfully called for.”

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