Pompeo cools anti-WHO rhetoric for now: 'This is not the time for retribution'

'This is not the time for retribution,' Pompeo said, although 'we're re-evaluating our funding with respect to the World Health Organization.'

Updated: April 8, 2020 - 6:49pm

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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said decisions about funding and personnel changes at the World Health Organization should wait until after the heat of the coronavirus pandemic cools.

"This is not the time for retribution, but it is still the time for clarity and transparency," Pompeo said Wednesday at the daily White House coronavirus task force briefing. "We're still working on this problem set. There's still data these good people need so that they perform their analysis of how to both develop therapeutics and a vaccine, and to understand where this virus is ... It started in China, and so they have that special responsibility to get it right quickly and fast ... We'll leave for another time to evaluate how everyone did in that."

Lawmakers, President Trump's former national security adviser John Bolton, and hundreds of thousands of petition signers on Change.org have called for WHO Director Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreysus to be removed for what the say was his failure to fully alert the world about the deadly, fast-spreading virus that started in China. 

"This is not the time to be doing that kind of change," Pompeo said when asked if he supported call for Ghebreysus' resignation. "There'll be a lot of time to look back and see how the World Health Organization performed. In the meantime, what our task is to preserve and protect the American taxpayers and make sure that our resources don't go to places that aren't going to deliver on behalf of the American people and the world, and President Trump and I are determined to do that."

Ghebreysus told world leaders on Wednesday to “quarantine politicizing COVID.” 

The remark by Ghebreysus came one day after Trump said that the White House was “going to look into” cutting off funding to the group. The United States is the single largest contributor to the WHO.

"At this point, we're re-evaluating our funding with respect to the World Health Organization," Pompeo also said Wednesday. "Now this is very consistent with what President Trump said since the beginning of his campaign. Organizations have to work. They have to deliver the outcomes for which they were intended ... . With respect to the World Health Organization, here we are. It hasn't accomplished what it was intended to deliver."