For those still curious about the meaning of gaslighting, look no further than President Donald Trump’s verbal assault on the World Health Organization last week. In a flagrant attempt to divert attention from his own poor performance during the COVID-19 pandemic, Trump excoriated the WHO for alleged delays and dysfunction in its global response. Beyond its immediate details, the episode offered a textbook example of how conservative U.S. politicians curry favor with their sovereignty-minded constituencies by treating multilateral organizations as pinatas and scapegoats during crises.
To recap, the president unloaded on the WHO on April 7, first on Twitter and then in his daily coronavirus briefing. “The WHO really blew it,” Trump tweeted, blasting the “China centric” agency for offering “faulty recommendations” early in the crisis. “Fortunately I rejected their advice on keeping our borders open to China early on,” he claimed. That afternoon he expanded his critique, falsely alleging that the WHO had called the initial Wuhan outbreak “no big deal.” “They called it wrong… they missed the call,” he continued. “And we’re going to put a hold on money spent to the WHO.”
Trump’s acolytes on Capitol Hill sang from the same hymnal, blaming the agency and its director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, for the pandemic and its fallout. “If they had done their job, everybody would have gotten more ready,” Republican Sen. Rick Scott of Florida told Fox News. “We wouldn’t have shut down this economy, and we wouldn’t have all these people dead all over the world.” Republican Sen. Lindsay Graham of South Carolina, chair of the Senate’s appropriations subcommittee, warned, “I’m not going to support funding under [WHO’s] current leadership. They’ve been deceptive, they’ve been slow, and they’ve been Chinese apologists.”
Credit: World Politics Review