Dr. Scott Atlas converted controversial Fox News appearances into a position on the White House’s COVID-19 task force even though he is neither an epidemiologist nor an expert in infectious diseases. And now the network is functioning as a hub for rewriting the misinformation Atlas spreads while in the national spotlight. Following a temporary lock on his Twitter account for spreading misinformation about mask-wearing, Atlas appeared on Fox to attempt to walk back and reframe the statements he had made.
On Saturday, Atlas posted a tweet claiming “masks work? NO” and asserted that the World Health Organization said “widespread use [is] not supported,” a distortion of actual guidance saying that “widespread use of masks by healthy people in the community setting is not yet supported by high quality or direct scientific evidence.” The WHO calls masks “part of a comprehensive package of the prevention and control measures” against COVID-19, and recommends them for the general public when social distancing isn’t possible and the virus is spreading. Atlas’ tweet also falsely asserted that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found wearing a mask to be an ineffective tool to curb the spread of COVID-19. The CDC denounced the statement, asserting that mask-wearing is not only effective but recommended to prevent the spread of the pandemic.
Atlas’ false narrative is part of a larger feedback loop between Fox and President Donald Trump which has led to widespread misinterpretation of a study released by the CDC. Twitter locked Atlas’ account and removed the tweet.
By Monday night, Atlas was on Fox’s Tucker Carlson Tonight claiming it was all a misunderstanding and attacking journalists who reached out to him with questions.;
Atlas claimed that he was only sharing “evidence” and that he “immediately” clarified his position supporting the president’s policy on mask-wearing, a policy the president and his staff regularly undercut, in a retweet.