HomeHealth Care NewsScott Atlas: White House COVID “Troika” Ditched Data, Pushed Pandemic Fear

Scott Atlas: White House COVID “Troika” Ditched Data, Pushed Pandemic Fear

(Photo, Atlas on left, courtesy Hillsdale College)

Review of A Plague Upon Our House:  My Fight at the Trump White House to Stop COVID from Destroying America, Post Hill Press, 2021, By Scott W. Atlas, M.D., 332 pages, $23.49.

Expressing his opinion about the members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force,  Anthony Fauci, M.D., the long-serving director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, on CNN on September 27, 2020, said, “Most are working together; I think, you know, what the outlier is.”

The “outlier” was Scott Atlas, M.D., who had joined the Task Force a few weeks earlier. His views on how the nation should respond to COVID-19 were at odds with those of Fauci and other key officials who had directed public health policy since the disease’s outbreak earlier in 2020.

Atlas’ book gives a candid view of his four-month tenure at the White House, and his exposure to the public health establishment and its media echo chamber.

Lockdown Dragged On

Atlas, a senior fellow in health care policy for the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, was recruited by the Trump White House with the hope his medical background and command of data would bring a breath of fresh air to the battle against the coronavirus.

New thinking was needed. By the time Atlas arrived in Washington in August 2020, the effort against COVID-19 had gone off the rails. It had been decided the best way to stem the spread of the virus was to shut down most of society, indefinitely. Lockdowns were pervasive, schools were closed, masks were ubiquitous.

What was originally sold as a 15-day nationwide lockdown dragged on for months and even longer in states whose governors prided themselves on imposing the most severe restrictions imaginable. The media, with few exceptions, exalted in putting out the most sensational—if often factually incorrect—news on the pandemic. And yet new “cases” continued to be reported, and the death toll, especially among the elderly, showed no sign of abating.


‘Troika’ Ignored Data

What struck Atlas was the lack of scientific data supporting the policies adopted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Fauci, and Deborah Birx, M.D., who served as White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator under President Trump.

Atlas regularly attended the White House COVID Task Force chaired by Vice President Pence, and the COVID Huddle, a separate group focused on messaging. He was regularly exposed to what he calls “the troika” of U.S. COVID policy: Fauci, Birx, and CDC Director Robert Redfield.

None of the three showed any interest in the COVID-related data Atlas had gathered from all over the world, which consistently showed the futility of societal shutdowns favored by the troika. Fauci was not confrontational, but Atlas suspects he was behind leaks to the media, where Atlas’s views on focusing the COVID effort on the truly vulnerable were regularly distorted.

‘Herd Mentality

The prevailing assumption everyone was equally in danger undergirded policies that stayed in place throughout 2020 and beyond, says Atlas.

“Even the initial evidence showed that elderly, frail people with preexisting comorbidities—conditions that weakened their natural immunological systems—were the ones at highest risk of death,” writes Atlas. Nevertheless, public health officials kept recommending “draconian isolation of everyone.”

“Serious problems with the data, including overcounting of COVID as the cause of hospitalizations and deaths in the United States, have never been explained to the public and acknowledged, even though it has been documented in the medical literature,” writes Atlas. “Why do these failures persist in a nominally science-based, freethinking, and ethical society like ours?

“Is the herd mentality so powerful, is fear such a dominant emotion, that all critical thinking and values disappear?” Atlas asks.

Sadly, the answer to his question is, yes.

‘Bizarrely Prioritized Testing’

In addition to the society-wide lockdowns and school closures, there was no real focus on testing for COVID, long after it has become clear it was the elderly who really needed to be tested.

“[The] Fauci-Birx testing strategy was not merely unfocused; their strategy bizarrely prioritized testing in the lowest-risk people and the lowest-risk environments—students and schools—while letting the deaths continue in the nursing homes and assisted living facilities, where a once-per-week schedule was assumed to be effective,” writes Atlas.

“It was baffling to me, an incomprehensible error of whoever assembled the Task Force, that there were zero public health policy experts and no experts with medical knowledge who also analyzed economic, social, and other broad public health impacts other than the infection itself,”  writes Atlas.

Trump Gone, Fauci Remains

In his many public statements, President Trump said repeatedly he favored opening back up and returning to normal as soon as possible, but his wishes were undermined by the troika. Atlas, who had a cordial working relationship with Trump, nonetheless faults him for failing to take corrective action.

“I believe the president made a massive error in judgment,” writes Atlas. “Against his own gut feeling, he delegated authority to medical bureaucrats, and then he failed to correct that mistake.”

Trump is no longer in office, and Atlas is back at Hoover. And Fauci? The chief architect of America’s failed response to COVID is still in the White House, only now he’s advising President Biden. Still held in high esteem by the establishment, Fauci will be delivering the commencement at Princeton University this spring.

Bonner R. Cohen, Ph.D. (bcohen@nationalcenter.org) is a senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research.


Bonner R Cohen
Bonner R Cohen
Bonner R. Cohen is a senior fellow with the National Center for Public Policy Research, a position he has held since 2002.


  1. Hopeless….It took over 300 years to acknowledge that Galileo was right about the solar system. There is little evidence that “science” confirms/accepts error. The temple of truth…universities…are stained with deceit. Fauci wins…humanity loses.


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