The World Health Organization is currently reeling from President Donald Trump’s decision to halt funding due to the group’s alleged mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic and its repeated deference to China’s Communist leaders who have covered up the extent of the outbreak.
On Saturday, the United Nations agency sought to put its troubles out of sight and out of mind as it enlisted Lady Gaga and Beyoncé to lead an all-star virtual concert that helped raise more than $128 million, according to a release from organizers. Of the money raised, $55.1 million will go toward the WHO’s COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund, while $72.8 million is earmarked for local and regional responders.
“One World: Together At Home” featured appearances by Jennifer Lopez, Taylor Swift, Paul McCartney, Elton John, John Legend, and many other pop stars who performed remotely from their own studios. The concert was intended to recognize first responders, healthcare workers, and other service employees who continue to work through the pandemic. The WHO co-organized the televised event, along with the non-profit advocacy group Global Citizen.
Lady Gaga curated the virtual concert and got things started with a performance of Nat King Cole’s rendition of “Smile,” telling viewers to find a way to smile through the trauma of the pandemic. Last week, the mega pop star had nothing but praise for WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, calling him a “superstar” during a promotional appearance for the concert.
Tedros is facing calls to step down following accusations that the WHO failed to heed Taiwan’s warnings about the coronavirus in December. The WHO, which doesn’t officially recognize Taiwan as a country, also faces allegations that it is carrying water for China’s Communist Party and is shielding China from blame for it cover-up of the Wuhan virus.
Prior to heading the WHO, Tedros, who isn’t a medical doctor, faced controversy during his campaign to run the global agency for being part of a government in his native Ethiopia that repeatedly denied cholera outbreaks. The New York Times reported that he faces accusations of covering up three cholera epidemics in Ethiopia when he was health minister.
Last week at a press briefing, President Trump said the WHO has “put political correctness above life-saving measures” by attacking travel bans like the one the White House implemented against China in January.
Beyoncé put in a surprise appearance on Saturday, thanking “delivery workers, mail carriers and sanitation employees” for their commitment during the crisis. She also focused on the coronavirus’ impact on black communities.
“Black Americans disproportionately belong to these essential parts of the workforce that do not have the luxury of working from home. And African American communities at large have been severely affected in this crisis,” she said. “Those with pre-existing conditions are at an even higher risk. This virus is killing black people at an alarmingly high rate here in America.”
Jennifer Lopez performed a version of the song “People” from the musical Funny Girl. “There’s one thing that I realize more than anything, during this whole time, and it’s how much we all need each other,” Lopez said at the top of her performance.
Taylor Swift performed a version of “Soon You’ll Get Better” from her 2019 album Lover at the piano.
The concert was hosted by late-night comedians Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Fallon, and Jimmy Kimmel. Other notable figures making an appearance include former first ladies Michelle Obama and Laura Bush; Oprah Winfrey; Bill and Melinda Gates; and Ellen DeGeneres.
President Trump said last week that American taxpayers give $400 million and $500 million a year to the WHO, while China contributes roughly $40 million by comparison.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.