Controversial White House coronavirus adviser Scott Atlas to resign

Hallie Jackson and Tim Stelloh
White House pandemic adviser Scott Atlas speaks to reporters during a news conference in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House in Washington, U.S., September 23, 2020.
Tom Brenner | Reuters

Dr. Scott Atlas, the controversial White House coronavirus adviser, is resigning from his position Tuesday, a White House official said Monday.

Fox News, which first reported the resignation, obtained Atlas's resignation letter, which is dated Dec. 1 and says that he was on a 130-day detail set to expire this week.

Atlas, a neuroradiologist on leave from the Hoover Institution, a conservative think tank affiliated with Stanford University, has no background in infectious diseases.

President Donald Trump invited him to join the task force in August after seeing him on Fox News. Like Trump, Atlas has downplayed the virus' seriousness, questioning the efficacy of masks and urging the White House to embrace a strategy of "herd immunity."

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In September, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Robert Redfield, was overheard saying that Atlas was spreading misinformation about the virus.

"Everything he says is false," Redfield was overheard saying by an NBC News reporter.

Atlas did not attend a coronavirus task force meeting for months, and top experts on the panel like Dr. Deborah Birx and Dr. Anthony Fauci said they didn't appreciate his input at their meetings.

Earlier this month, after Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced a partial shutdown order in response to the virus' growth in her state, Atlas called on people to "rise up" against the measures.

Stanford University called the comments "inconsistent with the university's approach in response to the pandemic" and said they reflected Atlas' personal views. Days later, Stanford faculty passed a resolution condemning his "disdain for established medical knowledge."

In a statement, Atlas said his views were embraced by top epidemiologists at prominent universities. He added that he's recommended social distancing and mask wearing.

In his resignation letter, Atlas said he wished "all the best" to the incoming administration — one of the few explicit acknowledgments from a Trump official about the transition of power.