Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., said Tuesday that he wants Congress to investigate the World Health Organization over accusations that it helped China cover up the severity of its initial coronavirus outbreak and then failed to hold the country accountable as the pandemic spread across the globe.
Scott said that China has lied about the number of coronavirus cases within its borders, covered up information about the virus itself and failed to act when it first received information about the potential severity of the outbreak, handicapping the rest of the world in its response to the disease and worsening the pandemic overall.
"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. "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. Their inaction cost lives."
He called for a hearing and "full investigation" once Congress returns.
Specifically, Scott cited the WHO's consistent praise for the Chinese response to the pandemic, its willingness to uncritically share propaganda from the Chinese government, its dismissal of Taiwan and Chinese state-run media's affinity for quoting Bruce Aylward, one of the organization's point people in addressing COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
Aylward was criticized for "carrying China's water" after a particularly bizarre interview with RTHK News, an outlet in Hong Kong, over the weekend in which he refused to even acknowledge the existence of Taiwan. Taiwan is not a member of the WHO or the United Nations and has been locked in a decades-long geopolitical battle with the People's Republic of China for the right to be considered the legitimate government there. The WHO is an arm of the United Nations.
A reporter, doing a video interview, asked Aylward if the WHO would consider Taiwan for membership in light of its extremely successful response to the coronavirus pandemic.
For several seconds, Aylward sat in silence before the reporter asked if he was still there. Aylward claimed he could not hear the question and asked the reporter to move on to another one. The reporter asked the same question again and Aylward abruptly hung up.
The reporter called Aylward back and asked him what he thought of Taiwan's response to the coronavirus.
"Well, we've already talked about China," Aylward answered, refusing to even utter the word "Taiwan." "And you know, when you look across all the different areas of China, they've actually all done quite a good job."
A WHO spokesperson later told Fox News that it was not Aylward's job to decide on Taiwanese membership in the WHO but a decision for member states.
Scott says that an investigation would "review whether American taxpayers should continue to spend millions of dollars every year to fund an organization that wilfully parrotted propaganda from the Chinese Communist Party."
That propaganda included a Jan. 14 tweet indicating that the coronavirus was not transmitted amomg people in China, citing "[p]reliminary investigations conducted by Chinese authorities."
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.
One of the most startling examples of the WHO allegedly boosting China's efforts while harming the global coronavirus response came early in the outbreak.
Taiwan claimed its doctors had heard from their mainland China colleagues that medical staff treating patients were getting sick -- an obvious sign that person-to-person transmissions were taking place, the Financial Times reported. Taipei officials said they reported their fears to Chinese health authorities as well as to the International Health Regulations, a WHO outfit that was created to allow countries to work together during health emergencies, but that their information fell on deaf ears.
"While the IHR's internal website provides a platform for all countries to share information on the epidemic and their response, none of the information shared by our country's (Centers for Disease Control) is being put up there," Taiwan's Vice President Chen Chien-ien said.
China has also expelled American journalists, detained its own doctors for speaking out about the coronavirus and more.
Fox News' Barnini Chakraborty and Joseph A. Wulfsohn contributed to this report.