After a three-month stint on the White House’s coronavirus task force during which he advocated for “herd immunity,” lambasted mask-wearing and generally acted like a contrarian, anti-science douche, Dr. Scott Atlas tendered his resignation on Monday night.
In a letter addressed to President Donald Trump, Atlas wrote that he had “always relied on the latest science and evidence, without any other political consideration or influence.” It’s the kind of statement that might actually be believable, had Atlas not repeatedly and flagrantly used his position to elevate pseudoscientific nonsense that was seemingly perfectly designed to bolster Trump’s strategy of downplaying the severity of covid-19.
In October, Twitter took the extraordinary step of removing a tweet in which Atlas—a neuroradiologist with no background in infectious diseases or public health—simply wrote, “Masks work? NO.” In November, following her announcement of three weeks of new social distancing orders, Atlas appeared to encourage vigilante retaliation against Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, who had been the subject of a foiled kidnapping plot hatched by six coronavirus deniers just one month earlier.
“The only way this stops is if people rise up,” he wrote in a tweet. “You get what you accept. #FreedomMatters #StepUp”
Atlas has also repeatedly rallied behind oversimplified claims that open schools pose no threat during a pandemic, frequently claiming that there is “zero excuse” to keep schools closed, and that children “almost never” transmit the virus.
During his White House tenure, Atlas reportedly provoked the ire of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention chief Dr. Robert Redfield, who was overheard by an NBC News reporter saying, “everything he says is false,” during a September phone call.
Atlas’ departure comes as coronavirus cases continue to rise in almost every part of the United States. According to one member of the White House coronavirus task force who spoke to CNN on Monday, Atlas’ resignation has been received as “welcome news, as his discredited theories will no longer have a seat at the table.”