- President Donald Trump hired Dr. Scott Atlas to join the White House coronavirus task force in August, after months of Atlas appearing on Fox News and speaking out against lockdowns.
- Atlas’ hiring caused a stir in the scientific community, with members questioning his qualifications to advise the president since his background is in health policy and neuroradiology, not infectious diseases.
- In a Monday interview with Business Insider, Atlas defended his medical background and called out his critics, who include Dr. Anthony Fauci and CDC Director Robert Redfield.
- “I think a lot of the criticism stems from people who are either politically motivated or are interested in maintaining their own stature in the public eye,” Atlas said.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
The addition of Dr. Scott Atlas, a health-policy expert who spent months speaking out against lockdowns and advocating for the full reopening of schools, to the White House coronavirus task force in August prompted outrage in the medical community.
Last month, Bill Gates suggested Atlas was only hired because he “agrees” with the White House’s “crackpot Covid theories.” A group of more than 100 of Atlas’s former colleagues at Stanford Medical School also signed a letter warning that many of his “opinions and statements run counter to established science.”
In an interview with Business Insider on Monday, Atlas hit back at the critics who have questioned his opinions and his qualifications to advise the president.
“I think a lot of the criticism stems from people who are either politically motivated or are interested in maintaining their own stature in the public eye,” Atlas said.
Some of the questions about Atlas have focused on his medical background. When Atlas was hired, Forbes reported that his background isn’t in infectious diseases, but in neuroradiology.
In recent years, however, Atlas has transitioned to a career in health policy. He currently works as a senior fellow at Stanford’s conservative Hoover Institution, and has advised politicians like Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani on heath policy.
“Somehow the charge that I am not an epidemiologist or I’m not a virologist, or I’m not a public-health official, has been repeated, and it’s ridiculous,” Atlas told Business Insider.
“I’m not here to be an epidemiologist. I’m here because I can translate complicated medical science … in away that is plain English and understandable by the public and by the White House.”
Since joining the coronavirus task force, Atlas has been the target of negative comments from Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top infectious-disease official on the task force, as well as Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
An NBC News reporter recently overheard Redfield saying “everything” Atlas says “is false,” while Fauci told CNN’s Brian Stelter last week that he worries about Atlas passing misleading information onto the president.
Atlas had choice words to say about both men.
“People on the task force have their own opinions about things, and that’s fine. But I can tell you that when the head of the CDC says if everyone wore a mask, we’d beat the virus in a month … or if I had a mask, I don’t need a vaccine. These statements are way off base and absurd and harmful to the public,” he said.
“Or when Dr. Fauci said everyone should wear goggles. Or when Dr. Fauci ridiculed Sen. [Rand] Paul for saying that other people have some protective immunity from things beyond simply what you see on an antibody test. To ridicule that statement shows a complete lack of understanding and a lack of the current scientific research,” he said of Fauci.
Atlas also said Fauci was using “media contacts to make public criticisms of other people out of insecurity.”
Business Insider contacted representatives of both Fauci and Redfield for comment on Tuesday but did not immediately receive a response.
In the Monday interview, Atlas said he he knew that as soon as he agreed to work with the president he would be “immediately vilified” and people would seek to “de-legitimize” him.
But he believes that his experience and understanding of how health policy affects the country would help the task force.
“I’m here because the country’s off the rails, I’m not here for any political reason, I’m here because people are dying from the wrong policies, pursued mainly at the state levels with these prolonged lockdowns, and we really need to stop that,” he said.
A number of states reopened businesses around late May and early June, though some have moved to reverse or pause those plans upon seeing a surge in cases.
Atlas said one of the misconceptions about him is that he is advocating for a policy that would encourage herd immunity, which occurs when enough of a population is immune to a disease that its transmission wanes. The Washington Post recently calculated that implementing this policy could result in the deaths of more than 2 million Americans.
“I have never advocated a herd immunity strategy. That was a lie from the get-go … That was never advocated to the president or anyone else,” Atlas said. “But to deny herd immunity exists is to deny gravity. That is what I would call today’s flat-earth movement.”