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Stanford University Appears To Distance Itself From Scott Atlas After 'Rise Up' Tweet

Dr. Scott Atlas, a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, speaks at a news conference in September in the briefing room of the White House.
Joshua Roberts
Getty Images
Dr. Scott Atlas, a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, speaks at a news conference in September in the briefing room of the White House.

Stanford University appeared to distance itself from Dr. Scott Atlas, a prominent member of the Trump administration's coronavirus task force, following his remarks that residents of Michigan should "rise up" against the state's new coronavirus restrictions.

Stanford officials said in a statement that Atlas' position was his alone, and his comments were "inconsistent with the university's approach in response to the pandemic."

"Stanford's position on managing the pandemic in our community is clear. We support using masks, social distancing, and conducting surveillance and diagnostic testing," the university said in a statement Monday.

"We also believe in the importance of strictly following the guidance of local and state health authorities."

Atlas is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, a conservative-leaning think tank based at the university. He's currently on leave and is serving as an adviser to President Trump.

Atlas was a professor and chief of neuroradiology at Stanford University Medical Center from 1998 to 2012, according to a university biography.

He does not specialize in the treatment of infectious disease.

Atlas has come under fire for a tweet Sunday referencing Michigan's new restrictions, where he said: "The only way this stops is if people rise up. You get what you accept." He also added the hashtags "FreedomMatters" and "StepUp."

Atlas later tweeted: "NEVER would I endorse or incite violence. NEVER!!"

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a first-term Democrat, said Atlas' response toward the state's upcoming "three-week pause" that seeks to limit some indoor activities "took my breath away."

Those restrictions, set to take effect on Wednesday, include a temporary halt of in-person classes at colleges and high schools in the state. They also will close indoor service at bars and restaurants.

The episode seems to have renewed tensions between the Trump administration and Whitmer, who the FBI said was the target of a kidnapping plot by men linked to a far-right militia group this year.

It isn't the first time comments from Atlas have run counter to those at Stanford.

A group of about 100 infectious disease physicians, immunologists and health policy experts signed a letter in September calling "attention to the falsehoods and misrepresentations of science recently fostered by Dr. Scott Atlas."

The letter said many of his comments and statements "run counter to established science and, by doing so, undermine public health policy." In response, Atlas reportedly threatened to sue his colleagues.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Brakkton Booker
Brakkton Booker is a National Desk reporter based in Washington, DC.