Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told a gathering of British Members of Parliament that World Health Organization Director General Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus was “bought” by China during a private meeting Tuesday:

The US secretary of state claimed yesterday that the director-general of the World Health Organisation had been “bought” by China’s government and his election had resulted in “dead Britons”.

Mike Pompeo made the allegation against Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in a closed-door meeting with cross-party MPs during a visit to London.

The Telegraph published some actual quotes attributed to Pompeo:

“When push came to shove, when it really mattered most, when there was a pandemic in China, Dr Tedros, who was … bought by the Chinese government,” The Telegraph quoted Pompeo as saying.

“I can’t say more, but I can tell [you] I’m saying this on a firm intelligence foundation, a deal was made … there was a deal making [Tedros’] election and when push came to shove, you get dead Britons.”

Pompeo and President Trump have suggested before that WHO had been co-opted by China but this appears to be a reference to Dr. Tedros being selected as WHO Director General in 2017, not a claim that he’d been bribed. Obviously, since Pompeo didn’t say more, no one has a clear handle on what the foundation for this claim is, but assuming the quotes are accurate he’s obviously claiming there is some intelligence to back this up.

The NY Times published a story when Tedros was elected which noted their had been some controversy about him but that global politics seemed to play a role in the choice of Tedros:

Dr. Tedros — a malaria expert who campaigned under his first name — ultimately beat Dr. David Nabarro of Britain after three voting rounds. The final tally was 133 votes to 50, with three abstaining or not voting…

The race, which began in 2015, turned bitter in recent weeks as an adviser to Dr. Nabarro accused Dr. Tedros of having covered up repeated outbreaks of cholera in Ethiopia, which may have delayed the international response and, more recently, the use of a cholera vaccine there.

Dr. Tedros was also accused of complicity in his country’s dismal human rights record, which includes massacring protesters and jailing and torturing journalists and political opponents…

Amir Attaran, a University of Ottawa expert on law and global health, called Dr. Tedros “a good choice because he was very diligent on malaria,” but argued that geopolitics played a greater role than personalities in the election.

“Choosing an African to head W.H.O. was past time,” he said. “And Britain is in the doghouse for choosing Brexit and undermining global stability — it’s their Guantánamo, their Tiananmen.”

But the Times of London reported that China used its aid budget to help Tedros gain support:

Tedros, a former Ethiopian foreign minister, beat Britain’s David Nabarro in the contest to become director-general of the WHO, winning the votes of more than half its 194 member nations.

Chinese diplomats had campaigned hard for the Ethiopian, using Beijing’s financial clout and opaque aid budget to build support for him among developing countries. China has praised the authoritarian development model of Ethiopia’s regime, which rules under emergency powers and has put down pro-democracy protests.

Dr. Tedros was asked about Sec. Pompeo’s comments today and called them “unacceptable.”

World Health Organization head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Thursday rejected accusations from the U.S. that the public health body has been “bought” by the Chinese government, saying such claims were “untrue and unacceptable.”

“The focus of the entire organization is on saving lives,” Tedros said, adding that the “WHO will not be distracted by these comments and we don’t want the international community to be distracted.”

Here’s Dr. Tedros’ full response: