Trump coronavirus adviser threatens to sue Stanford researchers
Scott Atlas, one of President Trump’s coronavirus advisers, is threatening to sue a group of Stanford doctors and researchers after they penned a public letter calling out “falsehoods” and “misrepresentations” of science around COVID-19.
Atlas, a senior fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution who has questioned the science of wearing masks to stop the spread of COVID-19, has made claims that “run counter to established science” and undermines public health authorities by doing so, 78 researchers and doctors wrote in the Sept. 9 letter posted on Stanford’s website.
Attorneys for Atlas responded Thursday, threatening to “vindicate his reputation in court” and “seek compensatory and punitive damages” if the letter is not withdrawn.
“Your letter, which you wrote and sent with no regard for the truth, maliciously defames Dr. Atlas,” wrote Attorney Marc Kasowitz, whose firm helped represent President Trump during the impeachment proceedings.
Kasowitz demanded that signatories immediately issue a press release withdrawing the letter and contact every media outlet that has reported on it to request a correction by Friday.
Michael Fischbach, an associate professor at Stanford Medicine who signed on to the letter, stood by it Thursday while sharing the legal threat on Twitter.
“Quick recap: We posted a public letter saying, basically: ‘Scott Atlas is giving the president bad advice. It will hurt people.’ Today we got this love note from [Atlas],” Fischbach tweeted.
“I stand by everything we said. More facts, more science. Less Kasowitz,” he added.
Atlas, a neuroradiologist who has no training in infectious diseases, public health or epidemiology, recently joined the White House coronavirus task force and appears to be favored by the president.
Experts have raised concerns over Atlas’s hard-lined push to reopen schools and his skepticism around the science of mask-wearing to slow the spread of COVID-19.
He has also pushed an approach to the pandemic that focuses on protecting those most at risk for serious COVID-19 illness including the elderly, while minimizing restrictions for the rest of the population, butting heads with Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx, who are also on the White House coronavirus task force, according to The New York Times.
“To prevent harm to the public’s health, we also have both a moral and an ethical responsibility to call attention to the falsehoods and misrepresentations of science recently fostered by Dr. Scott Atlas, a former Stanford Medical School colleague and current senior fellow at the Hoover Institute at Stanford University,” the Stanford letter reads.
“Many of his opinions and statements run counter to established science and, by doing so, undermine public-health authorities and the credible science that guides effective public health policy.”
The letter doesn’t give any examples but lists five statements it says are currently supported by data, including that face masks, social distancing and hand-washing have been shown to reduce the spread of COVID-19; crowded indoor spaces are settings that increase the risk of community spread; transmission of the virus occurs from people without symptoms, including from children to others; and children of all ages can get COVID-19, including some who will become seriously ill.
The letter also states that encouraging herd immunity through “unchecked community transmission” is not a safe public health strategy because it would result in a significant increase in preventable cases and deaths.
The Times also reported that Atlas has pushed a herd immunity strategy, a claim that he has rejected.
“The views he has expressed are consistent with the five statements which you assert in your letter are ‘currently supported’ by the ‘preponderance of data’ and which you falsely imply our client has lied about,” Kasowitz wrote.