The ad says that “Trump … shipped 17 tons of American masks and medical supplies. Our masks and supplies.” The impression left by the ad is that these were U.S. government goods, shipped on Trump’s order.
But these were actually donations by private charities and public companies for Project HOPE, an international health-care organization that has been operating in Wuhan for a quarter-century and helped establish a nursing school there. Usually, donors to Project HOPE arrange for charter aircraft to take their donations overseas.
For instance, as these shipments arrived in Wuhan, another shipment — 2 million respirator masks, 11,000 protective suits and 280,000 pairs of nitrile gloves donated by MAP International and MedShare — was sent to Project HOPE via UPS, which provided the transportation as an in-kind donation.
In the case highlighted in the ad, the State Department’s role was providing the aircraft. The department sent chartered planes to Wuhan to pick up some 800 consulate workers, their families and other Americans. The planes otherwise were going to be empty on the way to China, so officials decided to fill the jets with goods donated by Samaritan’s Purse, the Boeing Company, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Intermountain Healthcare. Money to help underwrite the effort was provided by Kenneth Griffin, a hedge fund manager who is chief executive of the investment firm Citadel. (It’s unclear whether he helped defray the State Department’s transportation costs. A Citadel spokesman would not clarify.)
“We have evacuated more than 800 people from Wuhan,” Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun told reporters on Feb. 7. “The first charter flight departed Wuhan on January 28th. Two subsequent flights departed on February 5th. Yesterday, on February 6th two additional evacuation flights departed Wuhan, carrying 800 passengers. The State Department, working closely with our partners in China, has loaded the holds of those arriving 747s with 18 tons of privately donated medical supplies and humanitarian assistance for the Chinese people. This includes urgently needed masks, gowns, gauze, respirators and other vital materials.”