Accuracy in Media

Republican lawmakers and right-leaning media criticized the World Health Organization’s response to the novel coronavirus, while the mainstream media ignored its many flaws and shortcomings.

The WHO’s history, spanning from its creation in 1948, is rife with mistakes and missteps that have led to deaths and poor responses to infectious diseases.

Fox News and Republican lawmakers claimed that the WHO is in the pocket of the Chinese government. Their main argument is that the WHO has not criticized China’s government for its cover-up of the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, China in December 2019. Despite the media’s portrayal of Republican criticism, their argument is correct.

The WHO, as late as January 23, declined to declare the Chinese coronavirus outbreak a global health emergency. On January 29, the WHO praised China for its restrictive measures to contain the outbreak. The next day, it declared a global health emergency after reaching an internal consensus on the matter. It took at least a week for the WHO to determine that the coronavirus was a global health emergency while issuing praise for the Chinese government’s alleged mitigation of the virus’s spread.

Also, the WHO has not criticized China for its cover-up and misleading statistics. WHO Secretary-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that he was “very impressed and encouraged” by Chinese President Xi Jinping’s knowledge about the virus. He said that China exhibited “a very rare leadership” in his discussions about containing the coronavirus.

The organization also allegedly ignored the warnings of Taiwanese doctors, since Taiwan is not represented in the WHO due to political disputes between Taiwan and mainland China. The WHO also repeated the Chinese government’s reported statistics, many of which have flaws and have raised questions in the Western media.

The majority of media coverage focused on the virus’s rising death count and President Donald Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. There was little criticism of the WHO, which is responsible for alerting world leaders and their governments about a potential global health emergency. WHO’s missteps are not new, especially after the organization’s slow response to the 2014 Ebola outbreak in Africa which cost lives. But the organization’s flaws are ignored in the mainstream media’s coverage, which focus their energies on Trump and the U.S. death count.

The WHO should be held accountable, but the mainstream media is not doing their job properly to hold it accountable.

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