White House is critical of the WHO report on the origins of the coronavirus

During a briefing on Tuesday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki expressed the Biden administration's reaction to a World Health Organization report on the origins of COVID-19, saying the report is still being reviewed, but that it lacks access and transparency and gives no greater understanding of the origins of the virus.

Video Transcript

- Does President Biden believe that the millions of Americans who lost loved ones to COVID-19 deserve a better response than one that they've gotten from the WHO?

JEN PSAKI: In terms of looking into--

- In terms of the origins for COVID-19.

JEN PSAKI: Well, I think he believes that the American people, the global community, the medical experts, the doctors, all of the people who have been working to save lives, the families who have lost loved ones all deserve greater transparency. They deserve better information. They deserve steps that are taken by the global community to provide that.

So there was an extensive statement put out by a number of countries, including the US. But let me highlight-- and we're still reviewing the report, but let me highlight some of the concerns that have come up to date. The report lacks crucial data, information, and access. It represents a partial and incomplete picture. There was a joint statement, as I noted, that was put out.

We also welcome a similar statement from the EU and EU members, sending a clear message the global community shares these concerns. There are steps from here that we believe should be taken. There's a second stage in this process that we believe should be led by international-- international and independent experts. They should have unfettered access to data. They should be able to ask questions of people who are on the ground at this point in time, and that's a step the WHO could take.

- And that statement says that the US joins these countries in expressing shared concerns.


- But the statement, quite frankly, is pretty bureaucratic and perhaps does not meet the moment of the seriousness of the crisis here in this country in terms of the death toll. So what is the White House's actual reaction to this report from the WHO? Was it simply inadequate?

JEN PSAKI: Well, the report is still being reviewed by our team of experts, 17 experts are reviewing it.

- But you know the headline of it, and it's not sufficient, you've said, so.

JEN PSAKI: We agree. And we have long said, as I just stated, it lacks crucial data, information. It lacks access. It lacks transparency. It's certainly-- we don't believe that in our review to date, that it meets the moment, it meets the impact that this pandemic has had on the global community. And that's why we also have called for additional forward-looking steps. And I will tell you that negotiating between 20 countries or so to get a statement out, sometimes it appears bureaucratic, but well-intentioned.

- Will the president speak on this?

JEN PSAKI: On the WHO report? I expect we'll let our review conclude, and then we'll look for an opportunity for him to speak to it. But I can certainly confirm for you that he shares these concerns. They are coming directly from him and directly from our national security team, who has looked at what the report has presented to date. They're still reviewing and share the concerns issued in that statement that made those concerns clear. Go ahead.

- Thanks, Jen. I just want to piggyback off of that as well. World Health Organization Director General Tedros, one of his primary concerns was that the report may have glossed over, if you will, the possibility that the virus escaped from a lab. Is that a central concern of the White House as well? And then when you talk about cooperation, has China not cooperated enough, in the White House's opinion?

JEN PSAKI: Well, they have not been transparent. They have not provided underlying data. That certainly doesn't qualify as-- as cooperation. You know, the analysis performed to date from our experts, you know, their concern is that there isn't additional support for one hypothesis.

It doesn't lead us to any closer of an understanding or greater knowledge than we had six to nine months ago about the origin. It also doesn't provide us guidelines or-- or steps, recommended steps on how we should prevent this from happening in the future. And those are imperative.

- And so that centers on the hypothesis that-- that would involve the lab.

JEN PSAKI: Again, it doesn't lead to, it doesn't-- it doesn't provide us greater understanding of the origin of the virus.