CBS & ABC Rush to Defend WHO From Trump, Ignore Failures

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In their rush to defend the World Health Organization from President Trump’s criticism of the agency’s failures in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, on Wednesday, journalists on CBS and ABC ignored that the WHO initially promoted false Chinese propaganda about the disease and routinely lavished the authoritarian regime with effusive praise.

“Now to Washington, where President Trump is threatening to pull U.S. funding from the World Health Organization,” co-host Tony Dokoupil warned on CBS This Morning. He then selectively touted: “The WHO sent out multiple coronavirus alerts earlier this year. In fact, declaring it a global health emergency back in January.”

 

 

Something else the WHO did in January was spread dangerous misinformation about COVID-19 by tweeting out this false claim: “Preliminary investigations conducted by the Chinese authorities have found no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission of the novel #coronavirus (2019-nCoV) identified in #Wuhan, #China”

The agency shared that piece of Chinese propaganda on January 14. It didn’t declare a global health emergency until January 30.

Choosing to censor that detail from viewers, Dokoupil sneered: “The President largely dismissed those warnings, saying also in January, ‘It’s going to be just fine.’ That’s a direct quote. Now, as Ben Tracy reports, Mr. Trump claims the WHO failed.”

If only there was an embarrassing “direct quote” from January he could have found from the WHO.

In the report that followed, White House correspondent Ben Tracy kept up the defense of the United Nations-backed group: “The President is shifting blame for the spread of the coronavirus to the World Health Organization, saying it should have provided better warnings....The organization labeled coronavirus a global health emergency in January.”

The fact that many critics around the world have raised serious questions about the WHO’s independence and its cozy relationship with the Chinese government was never mentioned.

Moments later, while interviewing White House Coronavirus Task Force coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx, co-host Gayle King wondered if the medical expert wanted to “step into this controversy that the President apparently has created where he’s blasted the WHO.”

Dr. Birx replied:

You know, the WHO can only react to the data it’s given. And when you go back and look at the timeline, it wasn’t until I think almost the middle of January that it was that China reported that there was human-to-human transmission. We have to really investigate reporting and how the reports were received there. I think it did delay the ability to declare this a global pandemic, an emergency.

On ABC’s Good Morning America, co-host Michael Strahan fretted: “But we also heard the President, in the middle of this pandemic, he threatened to cut off funding to the....World Health Organization.” White House correspondent Cecilia Vega declared: “And it’s because he says he’s angry with the group, saying that they’ve been too China-centric during this outbreak...” Neither of them presented the evidence that validated the concern.

During GMA’s interview with Dr. Birx, co-host George Stephanopoulos pressed: “Let me ask you, though, about this potential threat from the President to cut off funding for the World Health Organization. Does that make sense at this moment?”

If reporters are going to attempt to scold the President for criticizing the WHO, they better be willing to actually examine the agency’s record first.

Here is a transcript of the April 8 report on CBS This Morning:

7:08 AM ET

TONY DOKOUPIL: Now to Washington, where President Trump is threatening to pull U.S. funding from the World Health Organization. The WHO sent out multiple coronavirus alerts earlier this year. In fact, declaring it a global health emergency back in January. The President largely dismissed those warnings, saying also in January, “It’s going to be just fine.” That’s a direct quote. Now, as Ben Tracy reports, Mr. Trump claims the WHO failed.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: President Blasts World Health Org.; Threatens Funding Cut, Claims Org. Slow to Respond Despite Warnings]

DONALD TRUMP: They called it wrong. They really – they missed the call.

BEN TRACY: The President is shifting blame for the spread of the coronavirus to the World Health Organization, saying it should have provided better warnings.

TRUMP: They didn’t report it. If they did – they must have seen it, but they didn’t report it.

TRACY: The organization labeled coronavirus a global health emergency in January.

TEDROS ADHANOM [WHO DIRECTOR-GENERAL, JANUARY 30]: I’m declaring the public health emergency of international concern.

TRACY: Meanwhile, the President says he was not aware of memos written by his trade adviser, Peter Navarro, in late January and February, that warned of a full-blown COVID-19 pandemic that could infect 100 million Americans.

TRUMP: I heard he wrote some memos talking about pandemic. I didn’t see them, I didn’t look for them either.

TRACY: The President did ban most travel from China and formed a coronavirus task force in late January, but then downplayed the threat publicly.

TRUMP: I think it’s going to be under control.

TRACY: The President now says he did not want to alarm the country.

You said within a couple of days the cases will be down to zero?

TRUMP: I’m a cheerleader for this country. I don’t want to create havoc and shock and everything else. But ultimately, when I was saying that, I’m also closing it down. I obviously was concerned about it.

TRACY: For CBS This Morning, Ben Tracy, the White House.

(...)

7:12 AM ET

GAYLE KING: I would imagine you don’t want to step into this controversy that the President apparently has created where he’s blasted the WHO. Does he have a point for blaming them, what he says, for spreading the virus? Does he have a point?

DR. DEBORAH BIRX: You know, the WHO can only react to the data it’s given. And when you go back and look at the timeline, it wasn’t until I think almost the middle of January that it was that China reported that there was human-to-human transmission. We have to really investigate reporting and how the reports were received there. I think it did delay the ability to declare this a global pandemic, an emergency. We can do all of that when we get through this as a global community, to really understand how to do this better the next time.

(...)

Here is a transcript of the coverage on ABC’s GMA:

(...)

7:07 AM ET

MICHAEL STRAHAN: But we also heard the President, in the middle of this pandemic, he threatened to cut off funding to the well world –  World Health Organization – sorry about that.

CECILIA VEGA: Yeah, no, he did, you’re right, Michael. And it’s because he says he’s angry with the group, saying that they’ve been too China-centric during this outbreak and he said point blank, “We’re going to put a very powerful hold on the money given to them.” But then just a few minutes later he seemed to backtrack, saying that he’s now strongly considering it, Michael. But if this does happen, it would be huge. The U.S. is the largest single contributor to the WHO, we’re talking hundreds of millions of dollars, Michael.

STRAHAN: And not long ago he was praising the WHO. Thank you so much, Cecilia.

(...)

7:08 AM ET

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me ask you, though, about this potential threat from the President to cut off funding for the World Health Organization. Does that make sense at this moment?

DR. DEBORAH BIRX: You know, in the history of the United States and the World Health Organization, we have had times when we’ve done really in-depth analysis of what has happened. When the President said he was holding funds, he didn’t say he was restricting and keeping funds permanently away. But said instead, said let’s investigate what happened, let’s see what happened in our reporting. We’ve done that before with previous outbreaks and previous issues that have occurred at WHO.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So this – so there will not be a suspension of funding at this point?

DR. BIRX: So we give our contribution annually, the United States is the largest contributor, we always have been. Just as we are the largest contributor to a lot of different multilateral organizations. I think that the President wants to complete an investigation of what happened during this current outbreak. Believe me, they already have their continuation funds from last year so this is a year-by-year commitment to the WHO. This is our required – this is our required commitment. There’s also voluntary commitments that we’ve made to the WHO through history, including over the last couple of years for HIV, malaria, TB. So a whole series of diseases.

(...)

NB Daily China Health Care Coronavirus ABC Good Morning America CBS CBS This Morning Video Tony Dokoupil Cecilia Vega Donald Trump