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Republican Senator Calls on WHO Director to Resign Over Coronavirus Response

World Health Organization director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus attends a news conference on the outbreak of the COVID-19 coronavirus in Geneva, Switzerland, March 16, 2020. (Christopher Black/WHO/Handout via Reuters)

Senator Martha McSally on Thursday called on the director of the World Health Organization to step down, saying the organization covered up the extent of the spread of the coronavirus, which originated in China.

The Arizona Republican accused WHO director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus of helping China conceal its underreporting of coronavirus case numbers.

“I’ve never trusted a communist,” McSally said in an interview with Fox Business.

“I think Dr. Tedros needs to step down,” she continued. “We need to take some action to address this issue. It’s just irresponsible, it’s unconscionable what they have done here while we have people dying across the globe.”

The senator condemned China itself for failing to acknowledge and curb the virus before it spilled over China’s borders and spread to the rest of the world.

“Their cover-up of this virus that originated with them, has caused unnecessary deaths around America and around the world. The WHO needs to stop covering for them,” McSally said, adding that as restitution, any U.S. debts to China “should be forgiven, as a minimum.”

The senator’s criticism comes days after another GOP senator, Rick Scott of Florida, called for a congressional investigation into the WHO and questioned whether the organization should continue to be funded since it engaged in “helping Communist China cover up” the seriousness of the virus.

“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 said. “Their inaction cost lives.”

The WHO also “willfully parroted propaganda” from China’s Communist Party, Scott charged.

During an interview with Radio Television Hong Kong, WHO assistant director-general Dr. Bruce Aylward appeared to dodge a question about whether the WHO will reconsider granting membership to Taiwan, which China claims as a territory. Taiwan, which has reported just slightly more than 300 cases of the infection and only two deaths, has been widely praised for its containment of the coronavirus.

The senior WHO advisor responded that he could not hear the question, and when the interviewer offered to repeat it he interjected, “no, that’s okay, let’s move to another one then.” Later, he appeared to hang up when asked about Taiwan’s response to the pandemic, and afterwards said they had “already talked about China,” which has done “quite a good job.”

The U.S. intelligence community concluded in a classified report obtained by Bloomberg News that China deliberately provided incomplete public numbers for coronavirus cases and deaths resulting from the infection. In December, local and national officials issued a gag order to labs in Wuhan after scientists there identified a new viral pneumonia, ordering them to halt tests, destroy samples, and conceal the news.

The U.S. now has nearly 240,000 cases of the coronavirus around the country, and more than 5,000 have died. Worldwide, more than 50,000 people have died from the respiratory illness.

Correction: A previous version of this article falsely stated that Senator Martha McSally referred to WHO director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus as a “communist.” McSally was not referring to Tedros but was referring to China.

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