Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Corporate gatekeepers and big tech monopolists are making it more difficult than ever for independent media to survive. Please chip in today.

White House coronavirus adviser Dr. Scott Atlas speaks during a press conference in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House in Washington, DC, September 18, 2020. (Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)

'Everything He Says Is False': CDC Director Overheard on Airplane Condemning Trump Covid Adviser's Misinformation

Dr. Scott Atlas, a Trump adviser with no expertise in infectious diseases, "has been spreading misinformation for a long time," said one epidemiologist.

Jake Johnson

During a phone conversation on a commercial airplane late last week overheard by an NBC News reporter, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention slammed one of the White House's top Covid-19 advisers for providing President Donald Trump and the U.S. public with misleading information about the deadly pandemic.

"Everything he says is false," CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield told a colleague while on a flight from Atlanta to Washington, D.C. on Friday, NBC News reported Monday morning. Redfield, a Trump appointee, later acknowledged to NBC that he was referring to Dr. Scott Atlas, a neuroradiologist with no expertise in infectious diseases or epidemiology.

Brought aboard the administration's Covid-19 task force in August after reportedly catching Trump's attention with his frequent appearances on Fox News, Atlas has been pushing the White House to adopt a so-called "herd immunity" approach to the coronavirus pandemic—a strategy public health experts warn would cause millions of additional deaths. Atlas has also publicly questioned the effectiveness of face coverings in preventing the spread of coronavirus.

"Since his addition to the task force, Atlas has become the medical expert who spends the most time with the president, and his profile has been elevated in recent weeks by his appearing in the White House briefing room when Trump speaks with reporters," NBC reported. "There is a concern among Redfield and others that Atlas continually briefs the president and misrepresents what other health experts have said in sworn testimony, according to a member of the task force."

As epidemiologist Eric Feigl-Ding noted on Twitter, Atlas "has been spreading misinformation for a long time," including by falsely stating that coronavirus poses "no risk" to children.

Despite Atlas' complete lack of experience in the field of infectious diseases, Trump has cited the radiologist in an effort to legitimize his false claims about the coronavirus.

"A lot of people do agree with me," Trump said during an ABC News town hall in defense of his insistence that the U.S. is "rounding the corner" on the pandemic. "You look at Scott Atlas, you look at some of the other doctors that are highly—from Stanford."

But in a letter about a week ahead of Trump's town hall, dozens of Atlas' former colleagues at Stanford University Medical School denounced the White House adviser for spreading "falsehoods and misrepresentations of the science" in a variety of areas, from mask use to his promotion of a herd immunity strategy.

"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 Stanford faculty members warned.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Scientists to BlackRock Vice Chairman: New Fossil Fuel Development 'Incompatible' With 1.5°C

"The only responsible course of action is to do everything in our power to stop fossil fuel expansion and further emissions."

Jessica Corbett ·


Goldman Prize Awarded to Activists Who Showed Nature's 'Amazing Capability to Regenerate'

"While the many challenges before us can feel daunting, and at times make us lose faith, these seven leaders give us a reason for hope and remind us what can be accomplished in the face of adversity."

Julia Conley ·


Faith Leaders Call for Federal Election Monitors in Georgia to Protect Black Voters

"It is imperative that our election this November is monitored to preserve ballot integrity and ensure ballot security."

Brett Wilkins ·


'Inaction Is Bought': Here Are the Receipts on NRA's Purchase of GOP

"The issue is money in politics," said Nina Turner after the nation's latest mass killing of students and teachers. Right-wing lawmakers are "allowing children to die because of the gun lobby."

Kenny Stancil ·


'This Is on You!' Beto Interrupts Abbott Press Conference on Texas Massacre

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Beto O'Rourke accused Texas' GOP leaders of "doing nothing and offering us nothing" in the wake of the massacre at Robb Elementary School.

Jake Johnson ·

Common Dreams Logo