A report released by the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis rebuked the influence that physician Scott Atlas had in the Trump administration during his time as a pandemic adviser and accused him of undermining the government’s efforts to fight COVID-19.
During his time working with the Trump administration, Atlas frequently garnered controversy over his promotion of practices that seemingly contradicted pandemic mitigation methods recommended by other health officials in the federal government.
The subcommittee’s report, titled “The Atlas Dogma,” listed numerous instances in which the Trump administration embraced what the panel referred to as “dangerous and discredited” approaches to handling the pandemic, including the herd immunity strategy which Atlas is a proponent of.
Atlas was regularly accused of seeking to downplay the severity of the pandemic, with him characterizing the government’s early response to COVID-19 as an “overreaction.” He was a frequent critic of mask-wearing and social distancing and often mocked other health authorities and politicians who encouraged these practices.
Atlas’s influence on the Trump administration appeared to start before he was brought on as an adviser, according to the report, with the panel saying his involvement was concealed for several weeks after he was hired.
The report said Jared Kushner, former White House adviser and son-in-law to former President Trump, instructed Atlas to not announce himself during conference calls and hide his White House identification, even from former White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Deborah Birx.
The report further claimed that Atlas was able to successfully encourage the Trump administration to weaken testing by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as well as reduce overall testing.
“Administration officials used the ‘Atlas Dogma’ to justify their downplaying of the virus before the November presidential election and their continued deprioritization of the crisis as they worked to overturn the election results,” read the report.
It added that the embrace of the so-called Atlas Dogma, a name that Birx used to refer to his influence on the White House, impaired the U.S.’s ability to effectively respond to the pandemic when vaccines and antivirals were still unavailable.
It was also noted that other COVID-19 officials in the Trump White House appeared to not be as receptive to Atlas’s presence as those within Trump’s inner circle.
Birx told the panel that Atlas may have given leaders in the White House “biased” data. Former CDC Director Robert Redfield also apparently butted heads with Atlas, telling the House subcommittee that Atlas spoke “aggressively” to him when his agency restored its original testing guidance, with the physician apparently “enraged” by the decision.
This is not the first time that Atlas’s disagreements with other health officials in the former administration have been noted. Emails leaked last year revealed that Birx and chief White House medical adviser Anthony Fauci both thought that Atlas’s views on the pandemic were “dangerous.”