Trump Defends John Wayne Legacy Over Airport ‘Racism’ Row

U.S. President Donald Trump participates in a meeting of the American Workforce Policy Advisory Board in the East Room of the White House on June 26, 2020 in Washington, DC. Drew Angerer/Getty Images/AFP
U.S. President Donald Trump participates in a meeting of the American Workforce Policy Advisory Board in the East Room of the White House on June 26, 2020 in Washington, DC. Drew Angerer/Getty Images/AFP

 

 

US President Donald Trump leapt to the defense Monday of his movie idol John Wayne, after California Democrats called for the actor’s name to be removed from a local airport due to “racist” comments.

Wayne — the late, macho star of Hollywood westerns such as “True Grit” — held “white supremacist, anti-LGBT, and anti-Indigenous views,” the Orange County Democratic Party said in a resolution last week.

The group pointed to a 1971 interview with Playboy magazine, where Wayne was quoted saying “I believe in white supremacy” and “I don’t feel guilty about the fact that five or 10 generations ago these people were slaves.”

“The Democratic Party of Orange County condemns John Wayne’s racist and bigoted statements, and calls for John Wayne’s name and likeness to be removed from the Orange County airport,” Friday’s resolution said.

The move comes at a time when historic statues and monuments are being removed across the country, as Americans grapple with the legacy of racism.

Vast nationwide anti-racism protests followed African American George Floyd’s death in police custody last month.

“Now the Do Nothing Democrats want to take off the name John Wayne from an airport,” tweeted Trump. “Incredible stupidity!”

Trump has called himself a “longtime fan” of Wayne, appearing alongside the actor’s daughter Aissa at Wayne’s birthplace memorial in Iowa during his 2016 presidential campaign.

Wayne’s family has dismissed the Playboy interview comments as a “single outlier interview from half a century ago” that does not represent him.

“It would be an injustice to judge someone based on an interview that’s being used out of context,” Wayne’s son Ethan told CNN last year. “They’re trying to contradict how he lived his life, and how he lived his life was who he was.”

Wayne starred in more than 150 films over six decades. He was nominated for three Oscars, winning best actor for 1969’s “True Grit.”

The Democrats’ resolution noted the population of Orange County, near Los Angeles, has grown far more diverse since 1979 — the year Wayne died, and the airport was named for him.

They have called for its name to be restored to “Orange County Airport.”

AFP

US Official Claims Putin Seeking To Stay In Power For Life

RUSSIA-VIRUS-HEALTH
Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses the nation via teleconference at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow on May 11, 2020. – President Vladimir Putin on May 11, 2020 said Russia’s non-working period imposed to contain the spread of the coronavirus will be lifted from May 12. (Photo by Alexey NIKOLSKY / SPUTNIK / AFP)

 

A top US official said Monday that Russian President Vladimir Putin was seeking to stay in power for life ahead of a controversial constitutional referendum.

Deputy Secretary of State Steve Biegun said both Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping “seem intent on putting themselves into office for life, or at least until they otherwise choose on their own initiative to leave.”

“In the Russian system, which has at least the trappings of a democratic system, President Putin will go to a referendum in just a couple of days which many consider to have a foregone conclusion,” Biegun, whose academic background is in Russia, told a forum of the German Marshall Fund.

Biegun said the goal of the referendum for the 67-year-old Putin was “the extension of his rule for what effectively is his natural life.”

Russians have already started early voting in the July 1 referendum which could keep Putin in power until 2036.

Putin has been in power as president or prime minister since 1999. Opposition campaigners including Alexei Navalny have also said that Putin is seeking to be president for life.

The Kremlin reluctantly postponed the referendum from its original date of April 22 due to a spurt in cases of COVID-19.

Biegun’s remarks come amid fresh tension between the United States and Russia over reports that a Russian spy unit put bounties on Taliban-linked militants in Afghanistan to kill US troops.

President Donald Trump has said he was not briefed on the intelligence and has sought a warmer relationship with Putin.

AFP

Hey, You! Rolling Stones Warn Trump Of Legal Action Over Song Use

U.S. President Donald Trump participates in a meeting of the American Workforce Policy Advisory Board in the East Room of the White House on June 26, 2020 in Washington, DC. Drew Angerer/Getty Images/AFP
File: U.S. President Donald Trump participates in a meeting of the American Workforce Policy Advisory Board in the East Room of the White House on June 26, 2020 in Washington, DC. Drew Angerer/Getty Images/AFP

 

 

British rock legends The Rolling Stones have threatened legal action against Donald Trump for the US president’s use of their song “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” at campaign rallies.

The band has appointed performing rights organisation BMI to try to stop him using the song, according to a statement given to US website, Deadline, overnight Saturday.

“The BMI have notified the Trump campaign on behalf of the Stones that the unauthorised use of their songs will constitute a breach of its licensing agreement,” read the statement, which was retweeted by the Rolling Stones official Twitter account.

“If Donald Trump disregards the exclusion and persists then he would face a lawsuit for breaking the embargo and playing music that has not been licensed.”

The letter is the latest in a campaign to stop Trump using the song at rallies which dates back to 2016.

It was initially played at Republican party primaries.

The BMI added that it has not yet received any response from lawyers acting for Trump.

The Stones are not the first major act to call on the president to stop using their songs.

Earlier this month, the family of rock musician Tom Petty issued a cease and desist letter over Trump’s use of “I Won’t Back Down” at a rally in Tulsa on June 20.

His family posted an open letter on Twitter saying the late singer “would never want a song of his used for a campaign of hate”.

Queen complained when Trump walked on stage to their anthem “We Are The Champions” during a Republican Party event in Cleveland, Ohio, in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

Pharrell Williams, Rihanna, Aerosmith, Adele, Neil Young and the estate of singer Prince have all hit out after the use of songs by Trump.

And singer Betty Buckley also recently urged composer Andrew Lloyd Webber to stop the president using “Memory” at his campaign rallies.

Buckley sang the song in the original Broadway production of “Cats” in the early 1980s.

“You Can’t Always Get What You Want” was a track first heard 51 years ago, on the 1969 album “Let It Bleed”.

Written by frontman Mick Jagger and guitarist Keith Richards, it was voted by Rolling Stone magazine as one of the 500 greatest songs of all time.

AFP

Trump Campaign Blames Protesters For Poor Rally Turnout

File: US President Donald Trump arrives to speak at a press conference on COVID-19, known as the coronavirus, in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, DC, March 13, 2020.
SAUL LOEB / AFP

 

 

President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign on Sunday blamed the disappointing crowd at his Tulsa rally on protesters creating a hostile atmosphere and blocking supporters from getting into the arena.

The White House had promised the much-hyped event — Trump’s first rally in three months — would be flooded with up to 100,000 people, but television images showed large sections of empty seating in the 19,000-capacity BOK Center.

A outdoor event for the overflow crowd was canceled because no one showed up, despite the campaign hyping huge interest ahead of time, with more than a million ticket requests.

Senior Trump campaign aide Mercedes Schlapp told “Fox News Sunday” that attendees were unable to get into the BOK Center.

“There were factors involved, like they were concerned about the protesters who were coming in. There were protesters who blocked the (attendees),” Schlapp said.

“And so we saw that have an impact in terms of people coming to the rally.”

Schlapp went on to say there were families that “didn’t want to bring — couldn’t bring — their children because of concerns of the protesters.”

Schlapp was echoing an explanation first offered Saturday night by Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh, who said protesters were “even blocking access to the metal detectors, which prevented people from entering.”

But reporters on the ground said they saw no problems for people trying to get in.

Reports have been circulating in the last week that teen users of social media platform TikTok were block-booking tickets in a bid to embarrass the campaign.

Former Republican strategist and Trump critic Steve Schmidt said teenagers nationwide had ordered tickets without intending to turn up to ensure there would be empty seats.

He tweeted that his 16-year-old daughter and her friends had requested “hundreds” of tickets, and received responses from numerous parents saying their children had done the same thing.

– Mockery –

Trump has something of an obsession with big crowds, frequently boasting about the size of his rallies, compared to those of Joe Biden, his Democratic rival for November’s presidential election.

Schlapp mocked Biden for a recent event in which organizers followed social distancing guidelines, saying the former vice president couldn’t pull in crowds like Trump’s.

“I mean, Joe Biden has an event… with empty folded chairs and painted circles on the floor. I’d love to see a Joe Biden rally. Let’s bring it on, because there is no comparison,” she said.

Schlapp told Fox News over 5.3 million people had watched the rally online, meaning “the reach was far and wide.”

Trump is trailing Biden by 9.5 points in an average of recent nationwide polls curated by polling data aggregator RealClearPolitics.

Celebrity critics and Democratic politicians took to Twitter to mock Trump over the disappointing attendance.

“The last time I saw a crowd this small was Trump’s Inauguration,” tweeted Pennsylvania congressman Brendan Boyle.

“I think I sold that same place out in five minutes,” tweeted triple Grammy Award-winning US singer Pink.

Adding to the sense that the rally had turned out to be something of a misstep for Trump, six members of an advance team working in Tulsa ahead of the rally tested positive for COVID-19 just hours before the president took the stage.

Coronavirus cases have recently been skyrocketing in Oklahoma and local health officials had asked the Trump campaign not to go ahead with the rally, fearing it would become a “superspreader” event.

“Here’s my theory; don’t hurt the people that love you,” Pink added.

“I would never ask people to come to an arena right now. No good person would.”

Trump Slams ‘Horrible’ Rulings After Supreme Court Immigration Defeat

(FILES) In this file photo taken on February 25, 2020 US President Donald Trump speaks during a press conference in New Delhi. US President Donald Trump announced a news conference from the White House on the coronavirus epidemic February 26, 2020, with experts warning they expect it to spread in the United States. Mandel NGAN / AFP

President Donald Trump fired an extraordinary broadside Thursday at the US Supreme Court’s “horrible & politically charged” decisions after it ruled against his bid to scrap protections for hundreds of thousands of undocumented migrants.

In two tweets, Trump branded the nation’s highest court biased against conservatives, saying their decisions were “shotgun blasts into the face of people that are proud to call themselves Republicans.”

“Do you get the impression that the Supreme Court doesn’t like me?” Trump asked.

Trump Threatens To Designate ANTIFA A ‘Terrorist Organization’

Trump 'Repeatedly' Used Vulgar Slur In Immigration Meeting - Senator

 

President Donald Trump of the United States has said he will designate the anti-fascist group ANTIFA a terrorist organisation.

Trump accused the group of starting riots at street protests over George Floyd’s death.

Earlier in the week, Mr Floyd, a black man, died in police custody, rekindling certain ill-feelings aimed at police treatment of African-Americans, stirring protests that have turned violent, and causing various cities to impose stiff restrictions.

In a bid to quell the fires stirred by Floyd’s death, the National Guard was released and sent out to as-many-as 15 states including Minneapolis, where Mr Floyd died on Monday after a white police officer put his knee on his neck for more than eight minutes, a development which has led to nights of looting and arson.

READ ALSO: Trump Says He Will Delay G7 Summit, Invite Other Countries

Trump in series of tweets on Sunday, hailed the National Guard for what he termed a “great job” especially as regards shutting down “the ANTIFA led anarchists” who the President says the U.S will now designate a terrorist organization.

“The National Guard has been released in Minneapolis to do the job that the Democrat Mayor couldn’t do. Should have been used 2 days ago & there would not have been damage & Police Headquarters would not have been taken over & ruined. Great job by the National Guard. No games!

“Congratulations to our National Guard for the great job they did immediately upon arriving in Minneapolis, Minnesota, last night. The ANTIFA led anarchists, among others, were shut down quickly. Should have been done by Mayor on first night and there would have been no trouble!

“Other Democrat run Cities and States should look at the total shutdown of Radical Left Anarchists in Minneapolis last night. The National Guard did a great job, and should be used in other States before it is too late!

“The United States of America will be designating ANTIFA as a Terrorist Organization.

“The Lamestream Media is doing everything within their power to foment hatred and anarchy. As long as everybody understands what they are doing, that they are FAKE NEWS and truly bad people with a sick agenda, we can easily work through them to GREATNESS!

“Law & Order in Philadelphia, NOW! They are looting stores. Call in our great National Guard like they FINALLY did (thank you President Trump) last night in Minneapolis. Is this what voters want with Sleepy Joe? All Dems!

“Get tough Democrat Mayors and Governors. These people are ANARCHISTS. Call in our National Guard NOW. The World is watching and laughing at you and Sleepy Joe. Is this what America wants? NO!!!,” President Trump tweeted.

Trump Signs Executive Order Targeting Social Media Giants

WASHINGTON, DC – MAY 19: U.S. President Donald Trump signs a signed the executive order on DOT deregulation, during a meeting with his cabinet in the East Room of the White House on May 19, 2020 in Washington, DC. Earlier in the day President Trump met with members of the Senate GOP. Alex Wong/Getty Images/AFP

 

President Donald Trump issued an executive order Thursday seeking to strip social media giants like Twitter of legal immunity for content posted by users.

If this was enacted, the likes of Twitter and Facebook would become open to lawsuits and greatly increased government regulation.

Trump — angered this week after Twitter tagged one of his tweets for the first time with a fact-check notice — said regulation was needed because the companies are no longer neutral forums but engaging in “political activism.”

According to Trump, such platforms have “unchecked power to censor, restrict… virtually any form of communication between private citizens.”

“We can’t let that happen,” he said, “especially when they go about doing what they’re doing because they’re doing things incorrectly, they have points of view.”

The president’s ire appeared especially focused on fact-checking services that big social media platforms have added in an effort to weed out rampant disinformation and so-called “fake news.”

This, he said, made the companies into traditional publishers, therefore liable for whatever material they host.

“The choices that Twitter makes when it chooses to suppress… editorial decisions pure and simple,” he said.

“In those moments, Twitter ceases to be a neutral public platform and they become an editor with a viewpoint and I think we can say that about others also, whether you’re looking at Google, whether you’re looking at Facebook, perhaps others.”

According to Trump, his executive order aims to “uphold the free speech and rights of the American people.”

However, before this could go into effect it will face strong political opposition and Trump conceded it would get challenged in court.

Opponents say Trump’s aim is to tame the same social media platforms on which he is easily the biggest political presence in the country, cowing their attempts to reduce misinformation.

While Trump complains that social media leaders are liberal-leaning, he enjoys an overwhelming presence on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook and other outlets for his streams of often factually incorrect posts and crude insults against opponents.

Asked why he wouldn’t just walk away from Twitter, where he has 80 million followers, Trump said he would, except that he relies on the platform to bypass the traditional media, which he complained is unfair.

“There’s so much fake news, it’s disgraceful,” he told the journalists covering him in the Oval Office.

Trump even mused about his desire to see Twitter disappear altogether — if he had any way to make this happen.

“If it were able to be legally shut down, I’d do it,” he said.

Trump To Sign Executive Order After Threatening To Shutter Social Media

WASHINGTON, DC – MAY 19: U.S. President Donald Trump signs a signed the executive order on DOT deregulation, during a meeting with his cabinet in the East Room of the White House on May 19, 2020 in Washington, DC. Earlier in the day President Trump met with members of the Senate GOP. Alex Wong/Getty Images/AFP

 

US President Donald Trump is expected to sign an executive order Thursday after threatening to shutter social media platforms following Twitter’s move to label two of his tweets misleading.

After long resisting calls to censure Trump over his truth-defying posts, Twitter on Tuesday accused the president for the first time of making false claims.

Trump had tweeted — without any evidence — that more mail-in voting would lead to what he called a “Rigged Election” this November.

Twitter’s slap on the wrist was enough to drive Trump into a tirade — on Twitter — in which he claimed that the political right in the United States was being censored.

Trump would sign an executive order “pertaining to social media” on Thursday, his aides said, without offering any details.

But an undated draft version of the order obtained by The Washington Post on Wednesday said “we cannot allow a limited number of online platforms to hand-pick the speech that Americans may access and convey online.”

The order would make it easier for federal regulators to argue that the companies are “suppressing free speech when they move to suspend users or delete posts,” The New York Times reported, citing two senior administration officials.

Both newspapers also reported that the order, which they said had not yet been finalized, could see tech companies such as Twitter, Facebook and Google held legally responsible for content posted on their platforms.

Twitter’s move to tag the president’s tweets comes after years of being accused of ignoring the president’s violation of platform rules with his daily, often hourly barrages of personal insults and inaccurate information sent to more than 80 million followers.

READ ALSO: Trump Threatens To ‘Close Down’ Social Media After His Tweets Were Tagged 

Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg waded into the row, telling Fox News that his social network — still the biggest in the world — has a different policy.

“I just believe strongly that Facebook should not be the arbiter of truth of everything that people say online,” Zuckerberg said in a snippet of the interview posted online Wednesday by Fox.

“I think, in general, private companies, especially these platform companies, shouldn’t be in the position of doing that.”

Twitter founder and CEO Jack Dorsey fired back on Wednesday night, saying that his platform’s effort to point out misinformation did not make it an “arbiter of truth.”

“Our intention is to connect the dots of conflicting statements and show the information in dispute so people can judge for themselves,” he tweeted.

He doubled down on the new policy, writing: “Fact check: there is someone ultimately accountable for our actions as a company, and that’s me… We’ll continue to point out incorrect or disputed information about elections globally.”

– ‘Blatant lies’ –

Kate Ruane, at the American Civil Liberties Union, said that Trump has no power to regulate Twitter.

The constitution “clearly prohibits the president from taking any action to stop Twitter from pointing out his blatant lies about voting by mail,” she said.

For all his protests, Trump is a political giant on social media.

By contrast, his Democratic election opponent, Joe Biden, has only 5.5 million Twitter followers.

Social media suits Trump’s unorthodox communications style and his penchant for conspiracy theories, rumors and playground-style insults.

The claim that Twitter is biased against conservatives fits the White House narrative that the billionaire president is still an outsider politician running against the elite.

The row is also a useful smokescreen when Biden is homing in on widespread dissatisfaction with Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, which has left more than 100,000 Americans dead.

Polls consistently show Biden in a strong position, despite barely having left his home during weeks of social distancing measures — and his relatively meager social media presence.

AFP

Twitter Calls Trump Tweets ‘Unsubstantiated’ For The First Time

A file photo of US President Donald Trump.
A file photo of US President Donald Trump.

 

Twitter labelled two Donald Trump tweets “unsubstantiated” and accused him of making false claims Tuesday, a first for the social network which has long resisted calls to censure the US president over truth-defying posts.

The move drew a furious response from Trump, who used the platform to accuse Twitter of “interfering in the 2020 Presidential Election.”

“Twitter is completely stifling FREE SPEECH, and I, as President, will not allow it to happen!” he tweeted.

The social media giant targeted two tweets the president posted on Tuesday in which he contended without evidence that mail-in voting would lead to fraud and a “Rigged Election.”

Under the tweets, Twitter posted a link which read “Get the facts about mail-in ballots” and which took users to a notice calling the claims “unsubstantiated”, citing reporting by CNN, the Washington Post and other media.

“Trump falsely claimed that mail-in ballots would lead to ‘Rigged Election’,” the notice contended.

“However, fact-checkers say there is no evidence that mail-in ballots are linked to voter fraud.”

Trump aimed the misleading tweets at California, contending falsely that anyone living in the state would be sent ballots when in fact they will only go to registered voters, according to the notice.

READ ALSO: Trump Threatens To ‘Close Down’ Social Media After His Tweets Were Tagged

The president has long used Twitter as a platform to spread abuse, conspiracy theories, false information and insults to his 80 million followers.

For years before being elected in 2016, he built his political brand by supporting the “birther” lie that Barack Obama, America’s first black president, was not born in the United States and therefore was not eligible to be president.

And on Tuesday he ignited a storm with an attempted character assassination of MSNBC host Joe Scarborough by spreading the baseless rumor he murdered an aide.

Twitter, perhaps fearing a clash with one of its most influential users, had previously held out against calls to act.

The tweets in question violated a recently expanded Twitter policy, according to the San Francisco-based company.

“In serving the public conversation, our goal is to make it easy to find credible information on Twitter and to limit the spread of potentially harmful and misleading content,” head of site integrity Yoel Roth and global public policy director Nick Pickles said when the change was announced.

– ‘Vicious lie’ –

Twitter’s decision comes as Trump, already facing US economic calamity and 100,000 deaths from coronavirus as well as sinking reelection polls, received a storm of backlash over his pushing of the Scarborough conspiracy theory.

The entirely evidence-free story claims that Scarborough killed a woman he was having an affair within 2001, when he was a Republican congressman and she was one of his staffers.

Trump pushed the story over the weekend. On Tuesday, he was at it again, tweeting: “The opening of a Cold Case against Psycho Joe Scarborough”.

“So many unanswered & obvious questions, but I won’t bring them up now! Law enforcement eventually will?” he wrote.

The deceased woman, Lori Klausutis, was found by investigators to have died after hitting her head during a fall in Scarborough’s office, triggered by an abnormal heart rhythm.

Scarborough went on to become a prominent media personality, strongly critical of Trump, and is co-host of the Morning Joe show on MSNBC with his wife Mika Brzezinski, whom Trump calls “low I.Q. Crazy Mika.”

In a tweet Scarborough asked for people to “pray for Lori’s family tonight. May God also soften the hearts of those who continue to slander this good woman’s memory.”

Klausutis’ widower, Timothy Klausutis, wrote to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, pleading with him to delete Trump’s “vicious lie.”

“I’m asking you to intervene in this instance because the President of the United States has taken something that does not belong to him — the memory of my dead wife and perverted it for perceived political gain,” he wrote in a letter published by The New York Times.

When asked about the letter, Trump told reporters at the White House: “I’m sure ultimately they want to get to the bottom of it and it’s a very serious situation.”

He added: “As you know, there is no statute of limitations.”

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden said during a CNN interview on Tuesday that Twitter and other social media platforms should “say it’s not true” when misleading statements are broadcast.

Asked about the fallout from the Scarborough tweets, a Twitter spokesman said “we are deeply sorry about the pain these statements, and the attention they are drawing, are causing the family.”

“We’ve been working to expand existing product features and policies so we can more effectively address things like this going forward, and we hope to have those changes in place shortly.”

AFP

EU Backs WHO After Trump Pull-out Threat

European Union, Ogbonnaya Onu, Science and technology

 

The European Union backed the World Health Organisation and multilateral efforts to fight the coronavirus on Tuesday after US President Donald Trump threatened to quit the global agency.

“This is the time for solidarity, not the time for finger-pointing or for undermining multilateral cooperation,” European foreign affairs spokeswoman Virginie Battu-Henriksson told reporters.

The EU has sponsored a motion at Tuesday’s session of the WHO’s annual assembly to urge an “impartial, independent and comprehensive evaluation” of the international response to the pandemic.

And the spokeswoman said: “The European Union backs the WHO in its efforts to contain and mitigate the COVID-19 outbreak and has already provided additional funding to support these efforts.”

Not for the first time, this puts Brussels in opposition to Washington, where Trump has accused the UN health agency of being too close to China and of being slow to react to the COVID-19 outbreak.

On Monday, the US leader — who has already frozen US funding for the WHO — wrote its director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, to lay out the charges and threaten to pull out.

READ ALSO: Trump Threatens To Pull Out Of WHO Over COVID-19 Response, China 

“They’re a puppet of China, they’re China-centric to put it nicer,” he explained.

Beijing has furiously denied the US allegations that it played down the threat and Chinese President Xi Jinping reiterated at the World Health Assembly that his nation had been “transparent” throughout the crisis.

Brussels is backing an independent inquiry into how the epidemic erupted and spread, but has tried to lead an international, multilateral response to the crisis and raise funds for vaccine research.

AFP

China Says Trump ‘Shirking Responsibility’ To WHO

 

Beijing on Tuesday accused Donald Trump of smearing China and shirking American responsibilities to the World Health Organisation, after the US president threatened to pull out of the UN health body.

The American leader has been locked in a bitter war of words with Beijing, alleging it covered up the initial outbreak in central China late last year before the disease spread globally, causing economic devastation and claiming lives across the planet.

Trump on Monday called the WHO a “puppet of China” before tweeting a letter he had sent to the organisation’s chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus threatening to make permanent a temporary freeze on funding from the US.

China in response accused Trump of trying to “smear China” and “shirk responsibility and bargain over its international obligations to the WHO”, foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said at a regular press briefing Tuesday.

“The US leader’s open letter you mentioned is full of hints, ‘perhaps’, and ‘maybes’, and tries to use specious methods to mislead the public, and achieve the goals of smearing China’s anti-virus efforts, and shirk responsibility for the United States’ own insufficient response,” Zhao said.

“The US tries to use China as an issue to shirk responsibility and bargain over its international obligations to the WHO. This is a miscalculation and the US has picked the wrong target.”

More than 317,000 people have died of COVID-19 out of nearly 4.8 million infections worldwide, and governments are scrambling to contain the virus while seeking ways to resuscitate their hammered economies.

Zhao added the US was attempting to deflect from its own “insufficient prevention and control” against the virus.

READ ALSO: Trump Threatens To Pull Out Of WHO Over COVID-19 Response, China

With more fatalities and cases in the United States than any other country by far, under-pressure Trump has blamed the WHO for not doing enough to combat its initial spread.

“The only way forward for the World Health Organization is if it can actually demonstrate independence from China,” Trump’s letter read.

China urges the US to “stop shifting the blame” and instead focus on containing the virus, Zhao said at a regular press conference.

Earlier Monday the WHO said it would launch an independent review of the response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Beijing has furiously denied the US allegations that it played down the threat, and Chinese President Xi Jinping reiterated at the World Health Assembly that his nation had been “transparent” throughout the crisis.

AFP

WHO To Review COVID-19 Response As Trump Renews Attack

A file photo of World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
A file photo of World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

 

The World Health Organization said it would launch an independent review of its response to the coronavirus pandemic but President Donald Trump renewed his attack on the global body, branding it a “puppet of China” and threatening a permanent freeze on US funding.

Washington is locked in an increasingly bitter spat with Beijing over the new coronavirus pandemic and has also taken aim at the WHO, which on Monday kicked off its first-ever virtual assembly.

A resolution tabled by the European Union called for an “impartial, independent and comprehensive evaluation” of the international response to the pandemic, which has so far infected nearly 4.8 million people and killed more than 317,000.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus acknowledged there had been shortcomings and told the virtual assembly he welcomed calls for a review.

“I will initiate an independent evaluation at the earliest appropriate moment to review experience gained and lessons learned, and to make recommendations to improve national and global pandemic preparedness and response,” he said.

“But one thing is abundantly clear. The world must never be the same.

“We do not need a review to tell us that we must all do everything in our power to ensure this never happens again,” Tedros said.

READ ALSO: Trump Threatens To Pull Out Of WHO Over COVID-19 Response, China

A wide range of country leaders and health ministers hailed the WHO’s efforts but US health secretary Alex Azar said its “failure” to obtain and provide vital information on COVID-19 had cost lives.

“We must be frank about one of the primary reasons this outbreak spun out of control: there was a failure by this organisation to obtain the information that the world needed, and that failure cost many lives,” Azar said in a video address to the WHO’s main annual meeting.

– ‘Puppet of China’ –

Washington has suspended its funding to the health body, accusing it of being too close to Beijing, and covering up and mismanaging the pandemic.

“In an apparent attempt to conceal this outbreak, at least one member state made a mockery of their transparency obligations, with tremendous costs for the entire world,” said Azar, pointing the finger at Beijing.

The outbreak, which emerged in China late last year, has killed and infected more people in the United States than in any other country by far.

Later Monday, Trump threatened to permanently freeze US funding to the WHO and reconsider its membership unless “substantive improvements” were made within the next 30 days.

“The only way forward for the World Health Organization is if it can actually demonstrate independence from China,” Trump said in a letter to the WHO chief.

“They’re a puppet of China, they’re China-centric to put it nicer,” he said earlier at the White House. “They gave us a lot of bad advice.”

Trump has accused the WHO of blindly taking the word of China, where the SARS-CoV-2 virus was first detected.

Critics say Trump, who had earlier praised China’s response, is trying to divert attention from his handling of the pandemic in the United States, which has suffered by far the highest death toll.

The annual World Health Assembly (WHA) has this year been trimmed from the usual three weeks to just two days, and is focusing solely on the pandemic.

– ‘Contradictory strategies’ –

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the assembly the COVID-19 crisis was a “wake-up call”.

“Deadly global threats require a new unity and solidarity,” he said.

“We have seen some solidarity, but very little unity, in our response to COVID-19. Different countries have followed different, sometimes contradictory, strategies and we are all paying a heavy price.”

The UN head said many countries had ignored the WHO’s recommendations.

“As a result, the virus has spread across the world and is now moving into the global South, where its impact may be even more devastating, and we are risking further spikes and waves,” Guterres said.

Protecting developing countries was not a matter of charity but of enlightened self-interest, he said.

“We are as strong as the weakest health systems,” he warned.

Guterres said lessons learned from COVID-19 would be essential for tackling future crises but called for an immediate focus on unity to get through the present emergency.

“Either we get through this pandemic together, or we fail. Either we stand together, or we fall apart.”

Despite growing tensions between the world’s two largest economies, member states hoped the WHA would adopt a resolution aimed at fashioning a joint response, including commitments on equitable access to potential treatments and vaccines.

Chinese President Xi Jinping voiced support for a joint approach, vowing in his address to make any vaccine his country developed available for all and offered $2 billion in aid.

China currently has five potential vaccines in clinical trials.

French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel insisted any vaccine must be available to everyone.

AFP