Monkeypox is currently spreading across the country (and the world at large), with over 21,000 cases reported in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as of August 22. After a faltering initial response, the White House has taken a more aggressive approach in its response and outreach regarding the outbreak, which included the Aug. 2 appointment of a new Monkeypox Response Deputy Coordinator: Demetre Daskalakis. Daskalakis has a long resume of high-level public health experience—he served as covid incident commander for New York City and led the CDC’s HIV prevention division—but he also happens to be everything conservatives hate: hot, gay, and often shirtless.
Noted idiot and serial plagiarist Benny Johnson tweeted Thursday, “Meet Demetre Daskalakis. Demetre was just appointed by Joe Biden to be the official White House National Monkeypox Response Deputy Coordinator. Demetre proudly wears the official symbol of the Church of Satan: The Pentagram. Joe Biden appointed a Satanist to the White House.” Johnson’s use of “just” is doing a lot of work, as Daskalakis’ appointment occurred a month ago. Keep up, Benny. “I am certainly not a satanist,” Daskalakis tells The Advocate. And why do people think he is? “It’s because I wear high-fashion harnesses by Zana Bayne,” he cheekily replies.
Daily Caller writer Dylan Housman wrote, “Meet Joe Biden’s monkeypox czar: a ‘progressive, radical gay’ doctor who performs HIV screenings in sex clubs and gives meningitis shots in drag. Now he’s in the White House.” Housman wrote an entire story about Daskalakis’ “suggestive clothing” and “dozens, if not hundreds, of shirtless photos showcasing the doctor’s physique.”
Right-wingers like Johnson and Housman are having a field day with Daskalakis’ Instagram, with a lot of emphasis on the fact that Daskalakis has worn shirts and leather harnesses with designs that resemble pentagrams, which in turn confirms their beliefs that President Biden’s administration is home to Satanists (the post hoc propter hoc fallacy). While the good doctor may sometimes sport a menacing leather star, he balances the unholy vibes out with a massive tattoo of Jesus on his stomach, among several other pieces of ink.
Disparaging comments have flooded Daskalakis’ Instagram since the harassment against him began this week, and he has taken his profile private. The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
What’s completely unsurprising is how the conservative response to Daskalakis’ appointment involves criticism about his expression of sexuality, with little to say about how qualified he may be for this public health position—he has degrees from Columbia and Harvard, experience as a director of Mount Sinai Health System, and a long stint with the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Before joining the White House, he was known to have a unique approach to public health, specifically in his quest to cater to the LGBTQ+ community. A profile in the Atlantic in 2014 quotes Daskalakis as the “gay health warrior” who gave HIV and Hepatitis C screenings at a Manhattan S&M club called Paddles as patrons partied the night away. Similarly, NBC News previously reported that Daskalakis would dress in drag as a nurse to give meningitis vaccines at sex clubs.
While the right-wing rage against Daskalakis appears to be drowning out his infectious disease experience and creative approach to public health, many were quick to come to his defense.
After conservative radio personality Tim Young wrote of Daskalakis’ appointment, “I’m not making this up,” David Holland, a professor of infectious diseases at Emory University, responded, “No, you’re not. He’s a brilliant scientist, tireless public servant, and has always worked right on the front lines, including this amazing ad campaign. My friend and my hero. Don’t be jealous because he also looks better than you with his shirt off.”