Stanford University’s faculty senate issued a forceful condemnation of its controversial colleague and President Donald Trump’s health adviser, Scott Atlas, for spreading disinformation about COVID-19, saying that his behavior is “anathema to our values and belief that we should use knowledge for good.”
Atlas, a senior fellow at Stanford’s conservative Hoover Institution, has come under increasing criticism for urging people not to wear face masks or socially distance and to resist lockdown restrictions, all of which health experts recommend to stem the spread of COVID-19 and save lives.
Atlas last Sunday urged Americans to “rise up” against new COVID-19 restrictions issued by Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) in the wake of a record surge of coronavirus cases in her state. The call by Atlas came after authorities arrested members of a right-wing paramilitary group on charges of plotting to kidnap Whitmer because of her actions to stop the coronavirus’ spread and to protect Michiganders’ health.
The faculty senate passed the resolution with 85% of its members approving. The resolution detailed Atlas’ COVID-19 disinformation that “contradicts medical science” and harmed Stanford’s “reputation and academic standing,” according to a statement from the university.
It also singled out Atlas’ call to “rise up” against Whitmer.
“What Atlas has done is an embarrassment to the university,” said Dr. David Spiegel of the Stanford School of Medicine. “He is using his real affiliation with Hoover to provide credibility in issues he has no professional expertise to discuss in a professional way.”
Atlas is a neuroradiologist with no expertise or significant experience in infectious diseases or pandemics.
“We strongly condemn his behavior,” the resolution said. “It violates the core values of our faculty and the expectations under the Stanford Code of Conduct, which states that we all ‘are responsible for sustaining the high ethical standards of this institution.’”
The resolution called on the university to “forcefully disavow Atlas’ actions as objectionable on the basis of the university’s core values and at odds with our own policies and guidelines concerning COVID-19 and campus life.”
The resolution passed more than two months after some 100 members of Stanford’s School of Medicine and other researchers signed an open letter condemning Atlas. The letter cited the Hippocratic oath that physicians take to “first, do no harm” and attacked Altas’ harmful “falsehoods and misrepresentations of science.”
Atlas’ lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, threatened to sue signatories of the letter.
Neither Atlas nor Kasowitz immediately responded to HuffPost’s requests for comment.
Stanford earlier this week issued a statement saying that Atlas’ statements concerning COVID-19 did not reflect the position of the university or the Hoover Institution, which supported the use of face masks and social distancing.
But some critics said the statement alone is inadequate and that Stanford should take tougher action against Atlas. The Hoover Institution brings millions of dollars in donations and grants into Stanford’s coffers.
The faculty senate stopped short of demanding sanctions against Atlas, including dismissal.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, has attacked Atlas’ recommendations.
“I have real problems with that guy,” the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases told The Washington Post last month. He’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 … [don’t] make any sense.”
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