International

WHO director-general dismisses Pompeo comments: We’re focused on ‘saving lives’

World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Thursday dismissed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s reported criticism that he was “bought” by China, calling them “untrue and unacceptable.”

Tedros said the organization is focused on “saving lives” and “will not be distracted” by the comments from Pompeo reported in the British media.

“The comments were done, I think on Tuesday — last Tuesday. And the comments are untrue and unacceptable, and without any foundation for that matter,” Tedros told reporters during a press briefing.

“If there is one thing that really matters to us and which should matter to the entire international community, it’s saving lives,” he added. “And WHO will not be distracted by these comments.”

The Times of London reported Wednesday, citing unidentified witnesses, that the U.S. secretary of State had accused Tedros of being “bought” by the Chinese government during a closed-door meeting in London. 

Pompeo’s comments come as President Trump’s administration has escalated its attacks against the WHO in recent months. Trump has made the move to withdraw the U.S. from the WHO by next year, after the U.S. has been the main funder of the organization for years. 

Critics allege that the increased blame the administration is placing on the WHO and China serves as a distraction from its own failures to address the pandemic. The U.S. has recorded the most cases, breaking 4 million cases on Thursday, and the most deaths at 143,846, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Tedros told reporters Thursday that “one of the greatest threats” during the outbreak is the “politicization of the pandemic.”

“COVID-19 does not respect borders, ideologies or political parties,” Tedros said. “I have said it many times: COVID politics should be quarantined, and I’m appealing again to all nations to work together. Politics and partisanship have made things worse.”

Other WHO officials defended the director-general, including Maria Van Kerkhove, the technical lead on the WHO’s emergencies program.

“I feel the need to say something as an American, as a proud WHO employee. I have had the honor and privilege to sit next to Dr. Tedros and Dr. Mike Ryan for I-don’t-know-how-many days since the beginning of this pandemic, and I have never been more proud to be WHO,” she told reporters.

The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Tags China Coronavirus COVID-19 Donald Trump Mike Pompeo Pandemic WHO World Health Organization
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