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Trump: NY Times got it wrong on story about US opposition to breastfeeding measure

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DCNFAndrew Kerr, DCNF

President Donald Trump called out The New York Times on Monday for claiming his administration intentionally shut down a World Health Assembly (WHA) resolution to encourage breast-feeding at the request of infant formula manufacturers.

The proposed resolution called on member nations of the United Nations-affiliated organization to “protect, promote and support breast-feeding,” in addition to taking “necessary measures … to end inappropriate promotion of foods for infants and young children.”

Trump said his administration supports breast-feeding, but rejected the resolution because its language threatened to deny access to infant formula for women who are unable to breast-feed.

“The failing NY Times Fake News story today about breast feeding must be called out,” Trump tweeted. “The U.S. strongly supports breast feeding but we don’t believe women should be denied access to formula. Many women need this option because of malnutrition and poverty.”

Trump’s tweet echoed a statement given to The Times by a spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

“The resolution as originally drafted placed unnecessary hurdles for mothers seeking to provide nutrition to their children,” the anonymous HHS spokesman said. “We recognize not all women are able to breast-feed for a variety of reasons. These women should have the choice and access to alternatives for the health of their babies, and not be stigmatized for the ways in which they are able to do so.”

The Trump administration set its crosshairs on the breast-feeding resolution’s sponsor, Ecuador, after its efforts to modify the resolution were unsuccessful, according to The Times. Ecuador dropped the resolution after the U.S. threatened to impose punishing trade measures and withdraw military aid to the South American country.

Breast-feeding advocates said they were blindsided by America’s aggressive stance against the resolution.

“We were astonished, appalled and also saddened,” said Patti Rundall, the policy director of the Britain-based group Baby Milk Action.

“What happened was tantamount to blackmail, with the U.S. holding the world hostage and trying to overturn nearly 40 years of consensus on the best way to protect infant and young child health,” Rundall told The Times.

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