At an NBC News townhall last month, Samantha Guthrie reminded Donald Trump that Dr. Scott Atlas, a radiologist the president saw on Fox News, is not an infectious disease expert. The president was unfazed, describing Atlas as “one of the great experts of the world.”
He’s really not. As we’ve discussed, Atlas, who’s helped take the lead over the White House’s pandemic response, 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. He’s argued against masks and increased testing; he’s sidelined actual experts; and he’s advocated a crackpot pandemic strategy known as “herd immunity,” in which officials allow the virus to spread and infect much of the population.
In candid remarks to the Washington Post the other day, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told the Washington Post, in reference to Atlas, “I have real problems with that guy.” The nation’s preeminent infectious-disease expert added, “He’s a smart guy who’s talking about things that I believe he doesn’t have any real insight or knowledge or experience in. He keeps talking about things that when you dissect it out and parse it out, it doesn’t make any sense.”
Soon after, Atlas took to Twitter to complain that Fauci, a world-renowned immunologist, is “embarrassing himself.”
But that’s not all the radiologist did.
This weekend, Atlas appeared for an interview with Russian state media that he promoted online, tweeting, “if you can’t handle truth, use a mask to cover your eyes and ears.”
The trouble, of course, is that by appearing on Russia Today (also known as RT), Atlas was lending his voice to a broadcaster registered as an agent of the Russian government. This naturally led to questions as to why the one person Donald Trump listens to most on the coronavirus pandemic was speaking to a Kremlin-backed propaganda outlet.
As those questions grew louder, Atlas retreated, publishing a tweet that read, “I recently did an interview with RT and was unaware they are a registered foreign agent. I regret doing the interview and apologize for allowing myself to be taken advantage of. I especially apologize to the national security community who is working hard to defend us.”
Rachel joked soon after, “Well, to be fair, it’s not like anyone of importance is counting on him to know stuff about subjects beyond his range of expertise, right?”