After the World Health Organization (WHO) said it was “extremely unlikely” the COVID-19 outbreak began at a virology lab in Wuhan and canceled their probe this week, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Tuesday he doesn’t believe the WHO got the access they needed to make that determination.
In a Tuesday interview with Fox News, Pompeo said, “I must say the reason we left the World Health Organization was because we came to believe that it was corrupt, it had been politicized, it was bending a knee to General Secretary Xi Jinping in China. I hope that’s not the case here with what they’ve announced today. I’ll look forward to seeing their reports and analysis, but I don’t believe it’s the case, that they got access that they needed.”
Hours before Pompeo’s Fox News appearance, WHO food safety and animal disease expert Peter Ben Embarek said “the laboratory incidents hypothesis is extremely unlikely to explain the introduction of the virus to the human population. Therefore it is not a hypothesis that we advise to suggest future studies … into the understanding of the origin of the virus.”
Embarek delivered his assessment nearly a month after WHO investigators were allowed into China for the first time to investigate the origins of the coronavirus outbreak.
Responding to the WHO assessment, Pompeo said “I hope they got to see all the data, all the science, into the lab, talk to the doctors, interview them in private, in places where they could actually tell the truth about what took place; not under the supervision of a Communist Party person sitting in the back of the room making sure that they toed the Communist Party line.”
“I look forward to seeing their results,” Pompeo added. “I continue to know that there was significant evidence that this may well have come from that laboratory.”
WHO has faced past criticisms it did not do enough to investigate the outbreak of COVID-19 early on. In April Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) called for an investigation into the WHO, and accused the organization of failing to notify the world of the severity of the coronavirus in a timely manner. Announcing his decision to leave the organization, President Donald Trump published a timeline of delays in the WHO’s reporting on the virus.
The theory that COVID-19 originated in a Wuhan virology lab has also been a contentious topic amid ongoing investigations of the virus’s origins. The Trump administration repeatedly raised the possibility the virus began at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, including in his final days in office when the State Department, under Pompeo, released a fact sheet noting several potential connections between activities at the Wuhan lab and the virus outbreak. The fact sheet noted the lab had conducted research on a coronavirus strain with a 96.2% similarity to the SARS-CoV-2, the COVID-19 strain. The fact sheet also noted past accidental infections in Chinese labs, like a 2004 incident that saw an outbreak of SARS in Beijing that infected nine people and led to one death.