Mocking Biden for listening to scientists, Trump turns to Atlas

If Trump is mocking Biden as someone who'll "listen to the scientists," to whom is the Republican listening? Unfortunately, we know the answer.
Image: Scott Atlas
White House coronavirus adviser Dr. Scott Atlas speaks at the White House on Oct. 12, 2020.Alex Brandon / AP

At a campaign rally in Nevada yesterday, Donald Trump mocked Joe Biden as the kind of leader who would "listen to the scientists." Evidently, voters were supposed to think that real presidents ignore scientific experts, especially during a pandemic.

Of course, the strange line of attack raised a related question Trump probably doesn't want to hear: if the incumbent president doesn't want to "listen to the scientists," to whom is he listening?

Unfortunately, we know the answer: Dr. Scott Atlas, a radiologist Trump saw on Fox News, whom the president described last week as "one of the great experts of the world."

It was one of the more ridiculous lies the president has told about the pandemic. Atlas has "no expertise in public health or infectious disease mitigation," hasn't practiced medicine in nearly a decade, and has demonstrated a habit of echoing unscientific claims.

Over the weekend, the radiologist published a message arguing that masks don't work, prompting Twitter to remove the content so as to prevent the public from seeing dangerously wrong information.

Atlas has also advocated a crackpot pandemic strategy known as "herd immunity," in which officials allow the virus to spread and infect much of the population. Though the White House has embraced the idea, Dr. Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research & Policy and renowned infectious-disease expert, said on "Meet the Press" yesterday that "herd immunity" is "the most amazing combination of pixie dust and pseudo-science I've ever seen."

And yet, despite all of this, the Washington Post published a stunning behind-the-scenes look this morning at the White House's current posture on the pandemic and the degree to which the radiologist with no expertise in public health or infectious disease mitigation has "consolidated his power over the government's pandemic response."

Atlas shot down attempts to expand testing. He openly feuded with other doctors on the coronavirus task force and succeeded in largely sidelining them. He advanced fringe theories, such as that social distancing and mask-wearing were meaningless and would not have changed the course of the virus in several hard-hit areas. And he advocated allowing infections to spread naturally among most of the population while protecting the most vulnerable and those in nursing homes until the United States reaches herd immunity, which experts say would cause excess deaths, according to three current and former senior administration officials.

The article added that the former Fox News guest has repeatedly clashed with leading officials -- Dr. Anthony Fauci, CDC Director Robert Redfield, FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn, et al. -- and Dr. Deborah Birx went so far as to press Vice President Mike Pence to remove Atlas from the White House's coronavirus taskforce, in part because of his staunch opposition to expanded testing.

But instead of ousting Atlas, Trump has elevated him and sidelined the knowledgeable experts who've dared to tell the president what he didn't want to hear.

Is it any wonder the Republican incumbent is mocking Biden as someone who'll "listen to the scientists"?