Dr Scott Atlas has resigned from the White House coronavirus task force, following 130 days in a role in which he contradicted public health officials, spread misinformation regarding Covid-19 “herd immunity” and was flagged by Twitter for claiming that masks do not work to slow the spread of the disease that has killed thousands of Americans.
Donald Trump appointed the radiologist and fellow at a conservative think tank to the task force as an adviser in August. The role was set to expire next week.
In a letter obtained by Fox News and dated 1 December, Dr Atlas said that he “worked hard with a singular focus – to save lives and help Americans through this pandemic,” adding that he “always relied on the latest science and evidence, without any political consideration or influence” despite pushing false claims that undermined experts and health officials as infections continued to surge.
More than 267,000 Americans have died from Covid-19-related illness, and more than 13.5 million Americans have been confirmed as infected, according to Johns Hopkins University.
The letter claims that he had “focused on minimising all the harms from both the pandemic and the structural policies themselves, especially to the working class and the poor” – though he repeatedly amplified false claims about the disease, including insisting that children “never transmit the disease” and opposed funding widespread testing.
Dr Atlas – who has been highly critical of lockdown measures to combat the spread of the coronavirus – has also has clashed with other members of the task force, with infectious disease expert Dr Anthony Fauci telling The Washington Post last month that he believes Dr Atlas is “a smart guy who's talking about things that I believe he doesn't have any real insight or knowledge or experience in.”
In September, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Robert Redfield was reportedly overheard during a phone call saying that “everything he says is false.”
Twitter removed a post from the president’s appointee that falsely claimed that wearing masks does not help to prevent transmitting the disease, and he sat for a lengthy interview with Russian state television last month, for which he later apologised, “for allowing myself to be taken advantage of," he said.
His letter also recognised the incoming president-elect Joe Biden’s administration: “I sincerely wish the new team all the best as they guide the nation through these trying, polarized times … With the emerging treatments and vaccines, I remain highly optimistic that America will thrive once again and overcome the adversity of the pandemic and all that it has entailed.”