Scott Atlas resigns as Trump's coronavirus adviser

By Dan Diamond
·2 min read

Scott Atlas, the controversial physician who became President Donald Trump's hand-picked coronavirus adviser, resigned from the White House on Monday.

"I always relied on the latest science and evidence, without any political consideration or influence," Atlas wrote in his resignation letter, which he posted to Twitter on Monday night.

A radiologist with no previous experience fighting infectious disease, Atlas joined the White House in August after TV appearances on Fox News where he decried fears about Covid-19 as overblown. But the doctor — who won Trump's favor by repeatedly pitching the president on a rosier outlook about the worsening pandemic — clashed with the administration's public health experts, who warned that Atlas was misleading Trump about the severity of the crisis. Deborah Birx, an infectious disease specialist who had been tapped in February to serve as the White House's coronavirus coordinator, was increasingly marginalized this fall in favor of Atlas.

Senior medical experts also battled with Atlas after he appeared to advocate the concept of "herd immunity" — the controversial theory that the United States can quickly and safely achieve widespread immunity to the coronavirus by allowing it to spread unfettered among healthy people.

Atlas, a fellow at Stanford University's conservative Hoover Institution, has been repeatedly denounced by Stanford faculty, and the school sought to distance itself from his statements after he downplayed the value of masks to curb the spread of Covid-19.

Atlas joined the administration as a Special Government Employee, and his 130-day detail will run out this week — although some SGEs stay for much longer, an administration official noted to POLITICO.

There's "really nothing left for him to advise on," added a senior administration official who's been in meetings with Atlas. The arrival of Covid-19 vaccines means that herd immunity is likely coming the traditional way, the official said — through widespread vaccination, rather than the approach advocated by Atlas.

Meanwhile, Trump's interest in "an alternate reality" on the coronavirus outbreak has waned in recent days, the senior official said, with the president increasingly focused on contesting the election results. "Both sides seemed to reach the end of their utility to each other," the senior official said.

Fox News first reported Atlas' departure.