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Amid persistent criticism that his organization failed to properly oversee China’s coronavirus response and worked to downplay the communist nation’s responsibility for the pandemic, World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus is facing growing calls for his resignation from American politicians and others around the world.
Calls have been led by Sen. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., who last week on Fox Business’ “Mornings with Maria” told host Maria Bartiromo that she has “never trusted a communist” and that the Chinese government’s “cover-up of this virus that originated with them has caused unnecessary deaths around America and around the world… I think Dr. Tedros needs to step down.”
She continued on Friday, placing part of the blame for China’s lack of transparency on the WHO director-general.
“Dr. Tedros deceived the world,” she said. “At one point, he even praised China’s ‘transparency during its coronavirus response efforts’ despite a mountain of evidence showing the regime concealed the severity of the outbreak. This deception cost lives. “
Tedros’ woes have been caused in large part by his regular backing of China during the coronavirus outbreak.
In early February, days after President Trump put in place a travel ban for foreign nationals who had recently been to China, Tedros panned coronavirus responses that “unnecessarily interfere with international travel and trade,” according to Reuters.
He also tweeted praise for China on March 20, saying “[f]or the first time, #China has reported no domestic #COVID19 cases yesterday. This is an amazing achievement, which gives us all reassurance that the #coronavirus can be beaten.”
That tweet came amid allegations that the coronavirus numbers reported by China were not accurate, but manipulated to make the country’s response to the pandemic look stronger than it was.
Tedros’ comments, and other communications from the World Health Organization, have been used by China to boost the nation’s message as it seeks to deflect blame for the pandemic, which a study by the University of Southampton claims could have been “reduced by 95 percent globally” if China acted three weeks earlier.
As an example of China leaning on WHO in its efforts, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying tweeted that America was hellbent on blaming China after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo claimed China had allowed thousands of people to leave Wuhan and travel to places like Italy.
“Stop lying through your teeth!” the spokesperson said of Pompeo. “As WHO experts said, China’s efforts averted hundreds of thousands of infection cases.”
According to The Washington Free Beacon, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said the WHO should consider removing Tedros as its head.
“The World Health Organization has consistently bent to the will of the Chinese Communist Party at the expense of global health and of containing the spread of the coronavirus, from downplaying the extent of the virus to systematically excluding Taiwan,” a Cruz spokesperson told the publication. “Sen. Cruz believes that the WHO has lost the credibility necessary for it to be effective, and a reevaluation of its leadership is urgently called for.”
Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., also told the Free Beacon that “we need to have a serious reckoning with the World Health Organization.”
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., joined in on calls for Tedros to face accountability for how his organization has performed during the pandemic.
“Once this pandemic is under control, WHO leadership should be held to account. That includes Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who has allowed Beijing to use the WHO to mislead the global community,” Rubio said. ” At this moment, [Tedros] is either complicit or dangerously incompetent. Neither possibility bodes well for his future at the helm of this critical organization.”
So did former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., the WHO’s parent organization, Nikki Haley.
“This was posted by the WHO on January 14th,” Haley said of a WHO tweet that cited investigations by Chinese authorities saying the communist nation “found no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission” of the coronavirus.
“The WHO owes an explanation to the world of why they took China’s word for it,” she continued. “So much suffering has been caused by the mishandling of information and lack of accountability by the Chinese.”
Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., also called for accountability for the WHO on its handling of the coronavirus.
“When it comes to Coronavirus, the WHO failed. They need to be held accountable for their role in promoting misinformation and helping Communist China cover up a global pandemic,” Scott said last week. “We know Communist China is lying about how many cases and deaths they have, what they knew and when they knew it – and the WHO never bothered to investigate further.”
Scott also called for an investigation into the WHO, questioning whether it is deserving of American taxpayer money.
The United States is the single largest contributor to the WHO. The most recent invoice from the WHO to the United States, which is one of many countries that fund the organization, was for nearly $116 million per year. The United States also voluntarily gives between approximately $100 million and $400 million more per year to the WHO for specific projects — contributions that totaled over $400 million in 2017, the most recent year for which figures are available.
That means the United States contributed over $500 million in total to the WHO that year, which is just under one-quarter of the organization’s yearly budget. The WHO’s total budget for 2016 and 2017 combined was over $4 billion.
The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board also joined in the pile-on in an editorial posted Sunday evening, backing Scott’s call for an investigation and warning “foreign-policy elites” that if they “want to know why so many Americans mistrust international institutions, WHO is it.”
All this comes as dissatisfaction is also building with Tedros and the WHO internationally. A Change.org petition, reported on by the Jerusalem Post, which has been translated into several different languages and cites Tedros’ reluctance to question China’s self-reported coronavirus numbers, among other things, has gained over 700,000 signatures.
Additionally, Japanese Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso, according to Taiwanese television channel Formosa News, said that the WHO should change its name to the Chinese Health Organization over its handling of the coronavirus.
As of Monday morning, the number of coronavirus cases worldwide had surpassed 1.2 million with 69,000 deaths worldwide. In the United States, 337,000 coronavirus cases were reported and 9,600 people have died.
U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams in the White House coronavirus task force briefing Sunday night said that this week will be “the hardest and the saddest week of most Americans’ lives” — saying it would be “our Pearl Harbor moment, our 9/11 moment.”
Fox News’ Dom Calicchio, Barnini Chakraborty, Adam Shaw and Michael Campbell contributed to this report.