The leader of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said Wednesday he’s received death threats and racist insults while running the global efforts to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
“I can tell you personal attacks that have been going on for more than two, three months. Abuses, or racist comments, giving me names, black or Negro. I’m proud of being black, proud of being Negro,” he told reporters on a conference call from the organization’s Geneva headquarters on Wednesday. “I don’t care, to be honest … even death threats. I don’t give a damn.”
Tedros was responding to a question about whether criticism from world leaders such as President Donald Trump in the midst of a global pandemic makes it more difficult to operate the WHO. Tedros commented specifically on insults that he said came from Taiwan.
“Three months ago, this attack came from Taiwan. We need to be honest. I will be straight today. From Taiwan,” he said. “And Taiwan, the Foreign Ministry also, they know the campaign. They didn’t disassociate themselves. They even started criticizing me in the middle of all that insult and slur, but I didn’t care.”
Tedros also referenced remarks made by scientists on French TV that Tedros had condemned on Monday as artifacts of a “colonial mentality.” The scientists were discussing the potential of moving a vaccine trial in Europe and Australia to Africa, according to the BBC. Tedros said Wednesday that the remarks insulted “the whole black community.”
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Tedros pleaded for world leaders and politicians to put aside differences and focus on the fight against the pandemic, which has now infected more than 1,452,378 people around the world and killed at least 83,615, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
“Please quarantine COVID politics. That’s what we want. We don’t care about personal attacks,” he said. “We care about the life passing every single minute unnecessarily because we couldn’t unite to fight this virus.”