April 17 (UPI) -- Seventeen Republicans of the House foreign affairs committee told President Donald Trump in a letter that they support his controversial move to halt funding to the World Health Organization over its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, urging him to condition this year's contribution to the agency on the resignation of its director-general.
In a letter sent to Trump on Thursday, the Republicans, led by foreign affairs committee ranking member Michael McCaul of Texas, said they have "lost faith" in WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus' ability to lead the organization and that they recommend Trump condition his removal for the release of future funds.
"We are deeply concerned with the WHO's and Chinese Communist Party's handling of the early stages of COVID-19," the Republicans said. "The CCP's lies and WHO's poor handling of this crisis enabled a regional epidemic to become a pandemic."
The lawmakers argued the WHO handcuffed countries around the world in their fight against the coronavirus, which emerged in early December in China before spreading the world over, infecting more than 2 million people and resulting in more than 145,000 deaths.
The Republicans accused Ghebreyesus of ignoring early warning signs, delaying the declaration of a Public Health Emergency of International Concern despite evidence the disease spread through human-to-human transmission and heaping praise on China even though it delayed countries from properly responding to the initial outbreak by not informing the WHO of the virus until Dec. 31.
They added that Ghebreyesus "has a record of embracing [China's] propaganda and policies" that "undermines his ability to serve impartially as director-general."
"Director-General Tedros has failed in his mandate to objectively respond to the largest global health crisis since the HIV/AIDS pandemic reached its peak in the mid-2000s," the Republicans said.
Trump on Tuesday announced he had ordered a halt to funding the WHO over its "mismanaging and covering up the spread" of the coronavirus.
On Wednesday, Trump criticized the WHO for initially being against placing travel bans on China during the early stages of the then epidemic, saying that inaction was "a horrible, tragic mistake."
Trump's halt to funding was chastised from the other side of the political aisle with Democrats going so far as to call it "dangerous."
Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, condemned it, blaming Trump's early inaction for the United States now being the epicenter of the pandemic with more cases of infection than any other nation.
Trump has been criticized for downplaying the severity of the virus, even in late February stating it is the Democrats' "new hoax" during a rally in South Carolina.
"This was never a hoax or a conspiracy," Engel said in a statement. "It was a dire threat to this country that the president ignored. That's the reason the United States is now the epicenter of this crisis. Blaming the WHO will accomplish nothing and cutting off resources will only make things worse."
After Trump made the announcement, Ghebreyesus said the organization regrets Trump's decision, calling for unity in the face of the pandemic.
"This is a time for all of us to be united in our common struggle against a common threat -- a dangerous enemy," he said.
Since the United States reported its first infection on Jan. 21, the country has recorded more than 671,000 cases and more than 145,000 deaths, according to a live tracker by Johns Hopkins University.