If White House coronavirus task force adviser Scott Atlas’s role was to help guide the president and the nation through a public-health crisis that has killed over 267,000 Americans, he resigned on Monday with his task far from finished. However, if his role was to help the president share misleading information during the campaign and some of the worst days of the pandemic so far, he can rest with the assurance of a job well done.
Since he joined the administration as a pandemic adviser in August, the radiologist has suggested that asymptomatic people should not be tested, that masks don’t work, that state-level lockdowns caused the latest surge, and that children infected with the coronavirus “almost never transmit the disease.” All four ideas buckle under scientific evidence.
According to Fox News, Atlas’s resignation comes just before his 130-day detail as a “special government employee” is set to expire at the end of the week. In a resignation letter he published on Twitter on Monday, Atlas writes that “perhaps more than anything, my advice was always focused on minimizing all the harms from both the pandemic and the structural policies themselves, especially to the working class and the poor.” But that generous interpretation of his anti-lockdown contrarianism does not take into account reports that he “advocated allowing infections to spread naturally among most of the population” — a so-called “herd immunity” strategy that, if implemented, would have seen untold greater numbers of people die on the way to the country acquiring enough immunity to see the virus begin to dwindle.
Like many exiting White House officials, Atlas will now face the quandary of post-Trump employment in a field that may no longer be friendly to his presence. Already, Stanford has distanced itself from their senior fellow at the university-run Hoover Institution by adopting a resolution condemning Atlas for promoting “a view of COVID-19 that contradicts medical science.” This contradiction, however, would not exclude him from any future appearances on Fox News, where he previously served as a health commentator for the network. Just minutes after his resignation was posted, he appeared on Tucker Carlson Tonight above a chyron claiming he was vilified in his position in the administration.
This post has been updated.