President Donald Trump said Tuesday he was placing a hold on U.S. funding to the World Health Organization pending a review of the group's response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Trump said the group failed to gather, funnel and distribute information about the initial outbreak of the virus which has shut down much of the world. He criticized the group for opposing his travel restrictions on China, which Trump has repeatedly praised himself for doing in January.
"The reality is that the WHO failed to adequately obtain, vet and share information in a timely and transparent fashion," he said at a Rose Garden press briefing.
Still, Trump said the U.S. would continue to work with the WHO "to see if it can make meaningful reforms" and meanwhile work directly with foreign countries on global health issues.
Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, the top Democrat on both the full Appropriations Committee and the subcommittee that funds foreign operations said in a statement that, "withholding funds for WHO in the midst of the worst pandemic in a century makes as much sense as cutting off ammunition to an ally as the enemy closes in."
"Not wanting to take responsibility as the deaths continue to mount, he blames others," the Vermont senator continued. "WHO could have been stricter with China and called for travel restrictions sooner, but it is performing an essential function and needs our strong support."
Niels Lesniewski contributed to this story.