Dr Scott Atlas has resigned as special adviser to United States President Donald Trump, after a controversial four months during which he clashed repeatedly with other members of the coronavirus task force and questioned measures designed to curb the spread of the disease.
“I am writing to resign from my position as Special Advisor to the president of the United States,” Atlas said in a letter to Trump dated December 1, that he posted on Twitter.
Atlas, a neuroradiologist with no expertise in infectious diseases or epidemiology, was appointed in August on a special 130-day contract.
He has been sharply criticised by public health experts, including Dr Anthony Fauci, the leading infectious diseases expert in the US, for providing Trump with misleading or incorrect information on the virus pandemic and has downplayed the importance of face masks and social distancing.
This month, he said lockdowns had been “an epic failure” in stopping the spread of the virus. In October, Twitter removed a post in which he downplayed the importance of masks.
In his resignation letter, Atlas said he “always relied on the latest science and evidence, without any political consideration or influence” and insisted that he was focused on “minimizing all the harms from both the pandemic and the structural policies themselves, especially to the working class and the poor”.
He stressed that his views were shared by some of the world’s top epidemiologists as well as thousands of medical and public health professionals.
The US has confirmed more than 13.5 million cases of COVID-19 and nearly 268,000 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Fauci has warned the country to expect a “surge upon a surge” of cases following last week’s Thanksgiving holiday when many people chose to travel to meet family and friends.
Atlas took leave from the Hoover Institution at Stanford University to join the administration. At Hoover, he worked on the effect of government and the private sector on access, quality, and pricing in health care, as well as economic issues related to technology-based medical advances.
I have no comments on this, other than to say that if we have a future pandemic caused by neurological x-ray images, we may yet call on him again. https://t.co/kfawxgmQBu
— Kristian G. Andersen (@K_G_Andersen) December 1, 2020
His views on the handling of the pandemic were criticised by the faculty at Stanford University in a resolution that was passed on November 19.
Atlas apologised on Twitter this month for giving an interview to Russia’s Kremlin-backed television station RT, saying he was unaware it was a registered foreign agent in the US.