Right-wing media figures are pushing a debunked conspiracy theory that the United States is giving up its sovereignty over national health policies to the World Health Organization. They are suggesting that the WHO will have control over various health care practices around the globe and will use its power to remove civil liberties and implement lockdowns as it sees fit.
In reality, there is no global takeover of government sovereignty by the WHO. These claims stem from the organization implementing changes to its International Health Regulations document, a guide to how the international community should respond to future pandemics. The WHO implemented changes to its guidance after it received harsh criticism over how long it took the organization to declare a pandemic at the onset of the COVID-19 outbreak.
The United States recently proposed amendments to the International Health Regulations document to strengthen WHO’s ability to respond to health care related emergencies. These amendments will be voted on at the World Health Assembly meeting being held this week in Geneva, Switzerland. There is no mention of seizure of government sovereignty anywhere in these amendments.
Conspiracy theory early spread
The conspiracy theory that the WHO will take control of governments around the world got early life on former Trump aide Steve Bannon’s War Room: Pandemic podcast.
During a May 9 interview with former Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), she asserted that “the Biden administration is bringing amendments that would propose that all nations of the earth cede their sovereignty over national health care decisions to the WHO.”
This “creates a platform for global governance — global governance through the WHO,” Bachmann later added.
That same week, Bachmann appeared twice more on Bannon’s show to double-down on the conspiracy theory.
On May 12, Bachmann instructed the War Room audience to submit “an avalanche of comments” to the Health and Human Services secretary (who is leading the American delegation to Geneva) demanding that the United States not give “away American sovereignty over our health care decisions to the director-general of the WHO.”
On May 13, Bachmann proposed to Bannon a “GOP general strike” in which Republican members of the House and Senate do not show up for committee hearings until the government takes a stand against the WHO supposedly taking control over national health policy sovereignty.
Right-wing media run with conspiracy theory on Fox News, radio, and other fringe platforms
Fox News host Tucker Carlson claimed that Biden is giving the WHO complete control over our public emergencies. On the May 19 edition of Tucker Carlson Tonight, Carlson claimed that “the WHO will have total authority over emergency operations in the United States if there is ever a quote ‘public health emergency’” and “the White House is going to be the muscle for the director of the World Health Organization.” [Fox News, Tucker Carlson Tonight, 5/19/22]
Fox News host Laura Ingraham suggested that the Biden administration is planning to surrender American sovereignty to the WHO. On the May 19 edition of Fox News’ The Ingraham Angle, Ingraham said the WHO director-general will have “all power to decide if there is a public health emergency of international concern” which will affect people's “freedom” and “health.” [Fox News, The Ingraham Angle, 5/19/22]
On Tucker Carlson Tonight, Missouri Attorney General and U.S. Senate candidate Eric Schmitt claimed Biden wants to cede authority to the WHO to mandate loosely defined public health emergencies. Schmitt asserted that “public health emergencies aren’t limited to pandemics” and implied that the WHO could mandate climate change-related orders or anything else it deems a public health emergency. [Fox News, Tucker Carlson Tonight, 5/20/22]
During Sean Hannity’s radio show, the Fox News host alleged that the WHO will have “authority to declare and impose extensive lockdowns.” On the May 23 edition of The Sean Hannity Show, Hannity asserted that the United States would “sacrifice our sovereignty” to the WHO, which will be able to “declare and impose extensive lockdowns.” [Premiere Radio Network, The Sean Hannity Show, 5/23/22]
During Mark Levin’s radio show, he hosted white nationalist Stephen Miller to suggest that Biden is giving the WHO control of U.S. health care decisions. During the May 20 edition of The Mark Levin Show, Miller asserted that the Biden administration wants to give the WHO sovereignty over American health policy which would lead to being “at the mercy of third rate foreign bureaucrats for the survival of our basic foundational civil liberties.” [The Mark Levin Show, 5/20/22]
On YouTube, conspiracy theorist Naomi Wolf said the WHO will occupy the U.S. next week, and that could trigger a civil war. On the May 23 edition of The Charlie Kirk Show, Wolf asserted that the WHO will act as “an occupying force” in the United States and the U.S. military will be “doing the bidding of the WHO” which she said could lead to a civil war. [The Charlie Kirk Show, 5/23/22]
One America News’ Kara McKinney suggested the WHO is trying to codify its power “just in time for monkeypox.” On the May 22 edition of One America News Network's Tipping Point, host Kara McKinney said the WHO is attempting to codify its influence over its member states in time for the monkeypox outbreak that is currently being seen around the world. [One America News, Tipping Point, 5/20/22]
Podcast and Fox Nation host Dan Bongino warned his audience that the WHO could put pressure on member states to sanction the U.S. until it complies with public health mandates. On the May 13 edition of The Dan Bongino Show, Bongino speculated about the WHO launching “an international campaign to pressure the United States for more globalization and big government power.” [The Dan Bongino Show, 5/13/22]
Bongino asserted that the WHO is trying to create a “Ministry of Truth” to silence conservatives on social media and label their opinions as medical misinformation. Bongino connected the WHO’s proposed compliance committees to the DHS Disinformation Board and asserted that the WHO might work with the Disinformation Board to force social media companies to censor conservatives questioning public health mandates. [The Dan Bongino Show, 5/20/22]
Pro-Kremlin advocate and white nationalist collaborator Jack Posobiec also spread the conspiracy theory on Twitter, sending off various tweets suggesting that the United States is losing its sovereignty to the WHO.