Rick Scott calls for congressional probe into WHO over coronavirus response

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) Tuesday called for a congressional inquiry into the World Health Organization (WHO) over its response to the coronavirus, accusing the group of “helping Communist China cover up” the full extent of the virus’s spread.

Scott, a China critic, has voiced concerns about the relationship between the WHO and Beijing in the past and said the health organization “failed” to get adequate information from China out to the public.

“The mission of the WHO is to get public health information to the world so every country can make the best decisions to keep their citizens safe. 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 in a statement.

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The Florida Republican went on to accuse the WHO of distributing Chinese “propaganda,” citing messages where it praised investigations by Chinese authorities into the coronavirus, which first broke out in Wuhan, China. Scott suggested that the lack of an investigation into China’s dubious claims over its number of COVID-19 cases and deaths “cost lives” and merited a closer look at the funds the WHO receives from the U.S.

“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. “As soon as Congress is back in session, there should be a hearing, along with a full investigation, to review whether American taxpayers should continue to spend millions of dollars every year to fund an organization that willfully parroted propaganda from the Chinese Communist Party.”

The WHO has come under fire from China hawks in recent weeks over a January tweet stating that ”preliminary investigations conducted by the Chinese authorities have found no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission” of the coronavirus. It’s also faced criticism over its refusal to grant membership to Taiwan, an autonomous territory that China has sought to isolate from international bodies.

The WHO defended its response in light of Scott's criticism, saying in a statement it has been "transparent."

"WHO coordinates the international COVID-19 response in a transparent way and publishes on its website guidance, recommendations, reports and any other information that can help countries and individuals to respond to the coronavirus," the group said. "Throughout the outbreak, there have been regular and frequent meetings and discussions between WHO leadership & technical experts from around the world, including US government officials."

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"WHO also appreciates the US as its one of the most important donors."

The coronavirus has now spread to more than 150 countries, with more than 177,000 confirmed cases alone occurring in the U.S. More than 6,300 cases have been confirmed in Scott’s home state of Florida.

Updated Wednesday at 9:12 a.m.