The World Health Organization is facing bipartisan criticism for its COVID-19 origins report that will say animals rather than a lab are the source of the deadly pandemic.
A leaked draft of the joint report from the WHO and China, first reported Monday by the Associated Press, says it’s “extremely unlikely” that the coronavirus escaped from a lab.
But both Republicans and Democrats are slamming the report as biased because of the Chinese Communist Party-led government’s role in the investigation after party officials covered up early case data before the virus spread abroad.
Atlantic Council senior fellow Jamie Metzl, a former staffer to President Biden when he led the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, told “60 Minutes” on CBS that it’s akin to allowing the Soviet Union to investigate the Chernobyl nuclear accident, which also was covered up by local authorities.
“It was agreed first that China would have veto power over who even got to be on the mission,” said Metzl, who also worked at the White House National Security Council under President Bill Clinton.
“WHO agreed to that. On top of that, the WHO agreed that in most instances, China would do the primary investigation and then just share its findings with these international experts. So these international experts weren’t allowed to do their own primary investigation.”
Members of the World Health Organization’s team investigating the origins of the coronavirus pandemic inspect the Hubei animal epidemic disease prevention and control center in Wuhan, ChinaKyodo
CBS journalist Lesley Stahl asked, “You’re saying that China did the investigation and showed the results to the committee and that was it?”
“Pretty much that was it — not entirely, but pretty much that was it. Imagine if we had asked the Soviet Union to do a co-investigation of Chernobyl, it doesn’t really make sense,” Metzl said.
Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, tweeted that the investigation was not sufficient, calling the WHO “useful idiots” of the Chinese Communist Party.
“Since the initial outbreak of COVID-19, the Chinese Communist Party has lied & covered-up to the world the pandemic’s origins,” Zeldin tweeted.
“The World Health Organization has played along time & again as the CCP’s useful idiots. A thorough & truly independent investigation is long overdue.”
The WHO-China joint study press conference in Wuhan, central China’s Hubei ProvinceXinhua News Agency/Getty Images
The report is expected to say COVID-19 likely emerged naturally from bats before being transferred to humans through some other animal.
“The evolutionary distance between these bat viruses and [COVID-19] is estimated to be several decades, suggesting a missing link,” the report says, according to the AP.
US officials have studied the possibility that the virus escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
Former CDC director Robert Redfield said last week he believes the outbreak started at the Wuhan lab.
“I still think the most likely etiology of this pathogen in Wuhan was from a laboratory — you know, escaped. Other people don’t believe that. That’s fine,” Redfield said in a CNN interview. “Science will eventually figure it out. It’s not unusual for respiratory pathogens that are being worked on in a laboratory to infect a laboratory worker.”
COVID-19 has infected more than 30 million Americans and killed almost 550,000 since March 2020.
The Wuhan Institute of Virology in Wuhan, in China’s central Hubei provinceAFP via Getty Images
Former President Donald Trump paused roughly $500 million in annual US contributions to the WHO in April 2020, saying the United Nations body failed to vet Chinese misinformation about COVID-19, allowing it to spread. Trump withdrew the US from the organization in July.
Biden rejoined the WHO in his first week in office. Trump slammed Biden for doing so without adding new terms to the relationship.