John Oliver on Trump's Withdrawal from World Health Organization: 'Worst Decision at the Worst Time'

John Oliver examined President Donald Trump’s confounding decision to withdraw support from the World Health Organization on Last Week Tonight Sunday, October 18th.

As Oliver explained, the WHO has a fairly limited purview and power, but still manages to do a lot, like alert the world to health threats, develop policy, and improve access to care (perhaps its greatest achievement was completely eradicating smallpox in the late Seventies). Despite all this, in July Trump announced his decision to pull the U.S. out of the WHO, arguing that America contributed too much to the organization’s budget and that it was too deferential to China and aided the country’s mishandling of Covid-19.

Oliver acknowledged there’s a bit of truth to both claims. The U.S. does contribute more to the WHO than China (because we choose to do so) and WHO leadership did praise China back in February for its “bold approach” to containing the coronavirus, a decision that seems a little shortsighted now. But, of course, that same month, as Oliver noted, Trump was also heaping praise on China for its handling of the outbreak.

“Trump praised China’s response so many times, Politico made it into an actual listicle,” Oliver joked. “And that is a serious unit of measurement.”

If the U.S. does pull out of the WHO — which wouldn’t happen until next July, and the decision could be reversed if Trump loses the election — the Trump administration has suggested the U.S. could just start doing the same work on its own. But while we’d have the resources, Oliver noted such actions might not go over well in various parts of the world.

“For a start, if we try to go into another country for a public health mission, chances are, we’re gonna get greeted far less warmly because the WHO has never, you know, invaded a nation or funded a coup,” Oliver cracked. He added, “Especially having seen the way we’ve handled the coronavirus, nobody wants a U.S.-based alternative here for the same reason nobody’s looking for a Joe Exotic-based alternative to Jeopardy!

Oliver closed by noting that one of the most severe consequences of the U.S. withdrawing from the WHO is that it would imperil the organization’s mission to eradicate polio, which could happen by 2023. Additionally, he highlighted the sheer insanity of making such a move while still in the middle of a pandemic.

“It’s taking the fire engines away in the middle of fighting the fire, or getting rid of the lifeboats while the boat is sinking, or choosing to edit Kevin Spacey into a movie just weeks before its release date,” Oliver cracked. ”It’s the worst possible decision at the worst possible time.”

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