From the day Donald Trump introduced the Coronavirus Response Team, theoretically under the leadership of Mike Pence, it was clear that Dr. Anthony Fauci was going to be a problem. Having been the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health since 1984, Fauci is widely respected, experienced, and knowledgeable. But while he carefully tiptoed around simply calling Trump a know-nothing liar from the press room of the White House, and even stood by as Trump pushed dangerous drugs and speculated on injectable bleach, Fauci did have a tendency to appear on American televisions and tell the truth. That could never be tolerated.
So Fauci was ordered off the airwaves and instructed not to appear in front of Congress. But that still left Trump with CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield. The Trump appointee had reliably praised Trump and silently served as a convenient scapegoat when necessary, but somewhere around authoring reasonable school guidelines, Redfield was discarded.
That meant the only acceptable doctor left on Trump’s coronavirus team was Deborah Birx, who had been prowling the White House for months backing up Trump’s claims that COVID-19 was going to just “go away.” But, by the beginning of August, Birx admitted to the sad lack of magic and warned that the virus was exploding across the country.
With that fresh disappointment in mind, Trump went doctor shopping. And he found his answer to that issue where he finds the answer for everything else: Fox News.
When Trump appeared this week for his latest coronavirus update, Dr. Fauci, Dr. Redfield, and Dr. Birx were nowhere to be seen. But there was a new face on the stage—Dr. Scott Atlas.
Atlas is an epidemiologist … wait, no he’s not. Atlas is an infectious disease specialist … only no, not that either. Atlas is a vaccine specialist? Knowledgeable on hospital utilization? At least capable of recognizing the threat posed by COVID-19? No, no, and no.
As CNN reports, Atlas is a Hoover Institute Republican and Fox News commentator, whose sole qualifications to join Trump at the White House is that he agrees with Trump on everything. Everything. That includes how schools should reopen fully, no matter how much of a threat that poses, and that what America needs most right now is college sports. Atlas has appeared on Fox to criticize stay-at-home orders, and to explain how children aren’t really at risk from COVID-19
(To be clear, children are really at risk from COVID-19. So are all the adults in their lives.)
As a reward for never telling Trump anything he doesn’t want to hear, Trump has made Atlas an official White House adviser. The White House “declined to say” whether or not Atlas was getting paid a taxpayer-funded salary which means … yes, yes he is.
Who is Atlas really? His only medical certification is in “diagnostic radiology.” That means his job is—or was, before Trump declared him “a world renowned physician and scholar of advanced medical care”—to read X-rays ordered up by other physicians. It’s a top notch job for doctors who never want to see an actual patient. It also gives Atlas qualifications as an adviser on COVID-19 only slightly worse than the guy who delivers Trump’s Big Macs, because at least the Big Mac guy can speak about the threats to essential workers.
It’s entirely appropriate that as Trump has restarted his coronavirus briefings he’s been clear that he “did not want the experts” in the room with him. Instead, he’s bringing along Atlas. Because for Trump, the only good advice … is his own advice.