Dozens of doctors and researchers from Stanford University said legal threats won’t stop them from criticizing White House coronavirus advisor Dr. Scott Atlas.
The pronouncement comes a few weeks after academics from the elite university published an open letter slamming their former colleague for spreading “falsehoods and misrepresentations of science.” They said they especially took issue with Atlas discouraging masks and other health mandates that aim to slow Covid-19 transmission.
Not long after they issued their public condemnation, the researchers behind the letter said they received a threat on Sept. 16 from a law firm demanding that they retract their claims or risk getting sued. Marc Kasowitz, of the firm Kasowitz Benson Torres, said he represents Atlas, who’s currently a senior fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution.
Dr. Atlas—a radiology and neuro-radiology specialist—has no particular expertise in infectious disease. Yet the longtime physician has made a number of statements in recent months promoting the controversial “herd immunity” path for dealing with the pandemic and discouraging face coverings.
The missive condemning Atlas’s claims was posted on Twitter earlier this month, saying the authors felt compelled to write it “to prevent harm to the public’s health” and because they felt “both a moral and an ethical responsibility to call attention to the falsehoods and misrepresentations of science recently fostered by Dr. Scott Atlas.”
“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 researchers wrote.
Kasowitz, in a missive responding on behalf of Atlas, called the critiques “abjectly false.”
“We therefore demand that you immediately issue a press release withdrawing your letter and that you contact every media outlet worldwide that has reported on it to request an immediate correction of the record,” it stated.
Michael Fischbach, an associate professor in Stanford’s bioengineering department and one of the academics who put his signature on the letter calling out Atlas, tweeted in response that he stands by “everything we said.”
1/ We are 105 doctors, scientists, and public health experts and faculty members at Stanford University who expressed our serious concerns about statements made by Scott Atlas. pic.twitter.com/PvYfOIdTeD
— Michael Fischbach (@mfgrp) September 24, 2020
The legal threat generated more support for the group criticizing Atlas.
On Sept. 23, an even larger group signed a new letter saying they will not be silenced. “We believe that [Atlas’s] statements and the advice he has been giving fosters misunderstandings of established science and risks undermining critical public health efforts,” reads the declaration signed by 105 doctors, scientists, public health experts and faculty. “In addition, we are deeply troubled by the legal threats that Dr. Atlas has made against us in an attempt to intimidate and silence us in the midst of a pandemic.”