Scott Atlas, the radiologist who served for much of 2020 as President Trump’s most controversial coronavirus adviser, deleted his Twitter account this week, he confirmed to STAT, apparently in response to the social media site’s removal of many accounts following the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.
“In my view, Twitter has become a destructive place that mainly inflames extreme thinking and disseminates distortions, rather than elucidating factual information and respectful, civilized discussion,” Atlas said in an email.
Atlas deleted his account amid Twitter’s purge of users it says spread misinformation following the riot at the Capitol on Jan. 6. Tuesday, Twitter said in a blog post that it had suspended more than 70,000 accounts “primarily dedicated to sharing QAnon content.” It said in many cases multiple accounts were held by a single person. This, the company said, would mean some people’s follower counts would decrease. “In some cases, these actions may have resulted in follower count changes in the thousands,” Twitter wrote.
Monday night at 5:44 p.m ET, Atlas posted to Twitter: “I have lost 12k followers in the past few days. Just FYI.”
Tuesday morning, his account was gone. A Twitter spokesperson confirmed that Atlas deleted the account of his own accord.
Atlas, who has no clear expertise in epidemiology, infectious diseases, or virology, was selected by Trump in August 2020 to be an adviser to the White House’s coronavirus task force. Before taking the role, he had spoken publicly in favor of the idea that the virus could be fought through “herd immunity,” allowing it to infect people who were younger and healthier in order to prevent transmission. Infectious disease experts were highly critical of the idea, which they said would not work. Atlas reportedly advocated following such a strategy in the U.S., drawing criticism from public health experts.
“The administration’s now hired this Stanford guy who has no background at all just because he agrees with their crackpot theories,” Bill Gates, the co-chairman of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, told STAT in September.
In October, dozens of researchers and doctors affiliated with Stanford University signed an open letter to “call attention to the falsehoods and misrepresentations of science” attributed to Atlas.
On Nov. 15, Atlas used his Twitter account to encourage a citizen uprising in Michigan, where Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, had imposed a new set of Covid-19 restrictions, dubbed a “lockdown,” in light of a wave of new cases there.
“The only way this stops is if people rise up,” he wrote. “You get what you accept.”
His remarks drew instant criticism for appearing to incite violence, though he later argued he had only advocated that “people peacefully protest.” Michigan had already been the site of violent protests; six months earlier, thousands of protesters — many armed — had demonstrated outside and inside the Michigan Capitol in Lansing, railing against public health restrictions. And in October, a month before Atlas’s tweet, federal law enforcement arrested over a dozen men engaged in a plot to kidnap Whitmer.
Atlas resigned from his White House post on Nov. 30.