As the third coronavirus wave in the United States continues to shatter records, Scott Atlas—who became a top White House adviser on the pandemic, despite a curiously thin resume for the task—has issued an apology for appearing on RT, a news outlet controlled by the government of Russia.
“I recently did an interview with RT and was unaware they are a registered foreign agent,” Scott Atlas said in a tweet claiming he had been “taken advantage of.” The Daily Beast first reported on Atlas’ Saturday interview, in which he decried coronavirus lockdowns as an “epic failure” and blamed such policies for killing people. “We’ve had 230,000 lives roughly lost from the virus and certainly many lost from the policy of shutdowns,” Atlas said during the interview.
The incident hits at two of the Trump administration’s worst scandals: its botched coronavirus response and ties to Russia. In recent months, President Donald Trump has embraced Atlas—who has previously blasted mask use and made other controversial claims—as his other coronavirus advisers, namely Dr. Anthony Fauci, voice sharper and more direct condemnation over Trump’s continued incompetence in handling the pandemic.
“All the stars are aligned in the wrong place as you go into the fall and winter season, with people congregating at home indoors. You could not possibly be positioned more poorly,” Fauci told the Washington Post on Friday, prompting the White House to baselessly claim that Fauci, the US government’s leading expert on infectious diseases, was politically motivated.
The White House is already attempting to distance itself from Atlas’ RT interview, according to CNN’s Jim Acosta. But the episode is unlikely to draw any serious repercussions, as Trump himself appeared on the outlet during the 2016 presidential campaign.
Senior WH official tells me Doctor Scott Atlas did not have approval from the WH before going on RT. Atlas did it “on his own” without seeking approval from WH. Senior aides have raised concerns that Atlas would appear on the Russian outlet, the official said.
— Jim Acosta (@Acosta) November 1, 2020