Stanford condemns Trump Covid adviser Scott Atlas

The faculty resolution comes in response to the Hoover Institution fellow tweeting 'rise up' against pandemic lockdowns

Justin Vallejo
New York
Friday 20 November 2020 19:08
Dr Scott Atlas apologises for tweet calling for people to 'rise up' against lockdown
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Faculty at Stanford University, including former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, formally condemned and disavowed Donald Trump's coronavirus adviser Dr Scott Atlas, but stopped short of cancelling him for fear of suppressing academic freedom.

In the latest salvo of the ongoing war between Stanford and the senior fellow of its prestigious Hoover Institution, the Faculty Senate passed a resolution calling on university leadership to “forcefully disavow Atlas’ actions".

It comes after Mr Atlas tweeted a call to the people of Michigan to “rise up” against Governor Gretchen Whitmer's pandemic lockdowns.


Ms Rice, a former Bush administration official and current director at the Hoover Institution, said during discussion of the resolution that the tweet was "offensive and well beyond the boundaries of what is appropriate for someone in a position of authority".

“As elected representatives of the Stanford faculty, we strongly condemn his behaviour,” the resolution states.

The faculty resolution calls for a more severe reprimand against Mr Atlas than the short, three-paragraph statement released by Stanford on Monday that said his personal views did not reflect the approach of the university or the Hoover Institution.

“The only way this stops is if people rise up," Mr Atlas wrote on Twitter. "You get what you accept. #FreedomMatters #StepUp”

Mr Atlas apologized for the tweet after he was singled out by Joe Biden, who asked on Monday afternoon "what the hell is the matter with these guys?"

In an interview with Fox News, Mr Atlas said he didn't mean to threaten or incite violence.  

"I have people begging me to do anything I can to end the lockdowns. And so what I meant -- and I'm sorry, I'm not very articulate on Twitter -- is basically if you want to change things, you have to have your voices heard," he said.

"I didn't mean anything more than that. I think that's obvious in the United States. I didn't mean to threaten or incite violence."

The latest faculty resolution comes after Mr Atlas threatened to sue a group of Stanford doctors and researchers that wrote in a 9 September letter that he was harming public health.

“Your letter, which you wrote and sent with no regard for the truth, maliciously defames Dr Atlas,” wrote attorney Marc Kasowitz.

One of the authors, professor Michael Fishbach, stood by the letter and posted the legal threats on Twitter.

The letter said Mr Atlas must be prevented from harming public health and that they have a "moral and an ethical" responsibility to call attention to falsehoods and misrepresentations.

“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 letter said.

While the responses from Stanford and other university professors have amounted to denunciations, the latest resolution passed with an 85 per cent faculty majority called for a more severe public reprimand.

The resolution called on Stanford to “forcefully disavow Atlas’ actions as objectionable based on the university’s core values and at odds with our own policies and guidelines concerning Covid-19 and campus life.”

Professor in medicine, David Spiegel, said during discussion of the resolution that Mr Atlas was inappropriately using his position at the Hoover Institution to give credibility to his Covid-19 claims.

“What Atlas has done is an embarrassment to the university,” Mr Spiegel said, according to a university report. “He is using his real affiliation with Hoover to provide credibility in issues he has no professional expertise to discuss in a professional way.”

The resolution didn't go as far as calling on the university to investigate dismissal of Mr Atlas, with president Marc Tessier-Lavigne saying Stanford's commitment to free speech and academic freedom allowed Mr Atlas free to express his opinions as a private citizen.  

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