Faced with mounting evidence of his failure to protect the country from coronavirus, President Trump announced at a Tuesday press briefing that the United States will cut off all funding to the World Health Organization until the administration can conduct a review of its handling of the pandemic. A slew of polls now show that the public is becoming aware of how poorly Trump has handled this public health crisis, so Trump has returned to one of his favorite tactics: shifting the blame at all costs.
Denigrating and defunding the WHO, the leading international organization fighting the crisis, is especially sinister. Not only does it leave the WHO without adequate resources to fight the virus on a global scale, the U.S. failure to contain the virus within its own borders has made the rest of the world less safe. But to Trump, that’s a cost worth imposing on the world in order to pass off the blame for his failures.
The WHO is only the latest victim of Trump’s efforts to avoid responsibility and divert attention from his failures. Since the virus began spreading in the country, Trump has tried to pin the blame on a host of other scapegoats, while asserting “I don’t take responsibility at all.” Democratic strategists like David Axelrod have argued that you can’t spin away the reality of a pandemic, but that doesn’t mean Trump won’t give it his best shot.
So who is Trump trying to blame for his mistakes? Seemingly everyone! Keeping track can be overwhelming so we wrote it all down to help you (and ourselves) keep track.
First Trump blamed the media for overhyping the threat of coronavirus to damage him politically. In recent days, Trump has criticized the media for not giving the administration the credit he insists he deserves for handling the crisis. He has also used daily coronavirus propaganda briefings to attack any reporters who ask him to explain the inadequacy of the federal response.
In recent weeks Trump has attacked Govs. Gretchen Whitmer (D-MI), Jay Inslee (D-WA), J.B. Pritzker (D-IL), and Andrew Cuomo (D-NY). When these Democratic governors criticized Trump for his failure to get federal resources out to the states, Trump responded with insults, and even threatened to withhold assistance from them. GOP governors like Florida’s Ron DeSantis, however, have had their requests for federal help fulfilled entirely. More broadly, Trump has tried to devolve responsibility for the entire crisis, which only the federal government is equipped to address, on to all of the states, so he can blame states for the overall failure ahead of the election.
In mid-March, as the U.S. lagged other countries in tests administered per capita by a huge margin, Trump blamed President Obama for a “testing problem” Obama failed to address. Notably, Obama left office three years before coronavirus, or tests for coronavirus, even existed.
Trump used Twitter to divert criticism of his coronavirus response onto presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, criticizing him for his response to the H1N1 epidemic in 2009. Though the diseases are very different, the CDC moved much more quickly during Biden’s vice presidency to successfully contain the spread of H1N1 in the U.S.
China has rightly faced criticism for covering up the extent of the outbreak, but the Trump administration received reports from the intelligence community in early January that an outbreak in China might ignite a global pandemic. That means the administration squandered a months-long head start it could have used to beef up public health infrastructure to contain the virus. During this time, Trump heaped praise on Xi Jinping, reportedly because he didn’t want to jeopardize trade negotiations with China. Once it became clear that Trump had failed to contain the virus in the U.S., his administration briefly insisted on calling it the “Wuhan virus” or “Chinese virus”—jeopardizing the international response to the pandemic—but quickly abandoned the idea, perhaps because the U.S. sources a ton of its medical supplies to China.
After an inspector general from the Department of Health and Human Services filed a report finding hospitals nationwide are suffering severe shortages of medical supplies, a claim backed up by governors, mayors, and public health officials, Trump claimed the IG report was politically motivated. Trump also axed the inspector general who had been assigned to oversee the implementation of the coronavirus rescue bill, and installed one of his own White House lawyers in a similar oversight role, presumably to keep past and future failures from becoming public.
WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION
Trump announced he would cut off U.S. funding for the World Health Organization, accusing the leading international organization fighting the pandemic of “mismanaging and covering up” the scale of the coronavirus threat. Trump had praised the WHO for its work to stop the spread of the virus as recently as six weeks ago, underscoring Trump’s willingness to contradict himself whenever it’s politically advantageous. The WHO sounded the alarm about the virus in January, and began distributing testing materials to countries around the world, while Trump was still assuring the public that the number of U.S. cases would be “down to zero” into late February. The Trump administration declined to request these materials from WHO, exacerbating a fatal, months-long delay in U.S. testing capacity.