In a new interview, billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates sharply criticized the Trump administration for muzzling experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) while instead listening to White House COVID-19 adviser Dr. Scott Atlas, whom Gates calls a “pseudo-expert” who’s “off-the-rails.”
Atlas, a member of the administration’s coronavirus task force who formerly appeared as a commentator for Fox News, reportedly opposes an expansion of COVID testing and earlier this month posted a tweet falsely downplaying the effectiveness of masks. Twitter later removed the post from Atlas, a Stanford University professor with a medical degree from the University of Chicago School of Medicine.
“We now have a pseudo-expert advising the president,” Gates, the former Microsoft (MSFT) CEO and a leading backer of global public health initiatives, told Yahoo Finance Editor-in-Chief Andy Serwer in an interview that aired on Monday as part of the the news organization’s All Markets Summit.
After the interview, taped on Oct. 15, Gates confirmed that he had made the comments in reference to Atlas, who has opposed lockdowns and co-authored an op-ed in The Hill called “The COVID-19 shutdowns will cost Americans millions of years of lives.”
After his interview with Yahoo Finance, Gates also added further description of Atlas as “off-the-rails.”
‘The CDC has not been allowed to really speak out’
Earlier this month, the Wall Street Journal reported that White House advisers had made line-by-line alterations to official health guidance produced by the CDC. Trump criticized CDC Director Robert Redfield last month, and Trump has repeatedly denigrated the government’s top-infectious disease official Anthony Fauci.
“The most malign thing is where you start to attack your own experts and suggest that maybe politicians know better than disease experts,” Gates says. “In this case, the CDC has not been allowed to really speak out. When they tried to put information on their website, that got edited by politicians.”
“Tony Fauci, great person, his messages are quite clear,” Gates adds. “But as he gets attacked, those messages aren't able to develop the kind of patience and helping each other that would bring the death rate down.”
On Friday, the U.S. set a single-day record for coronavirus cases, topping 85,000 for the first time and outpacing the previous mark set in July. In all, the U.S. has suffered more than confirmed 8.44 million coronavirus cases and 223,000 deaths as of last Friday, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Gates warned of a lack of global pandemic preparedness in 2015 during a TedTalk that has now been viewed on the site nearly 38 million times.
Until 2000, Gates led personal computing giant Microsoft. That year, he and his wife co-founded the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which now employs nearly 1,500 people and boasts an endowment of $46.8 billion.The foundation has contributed more than $350 million to the fight against the pandemic.
Gates also spoke to Serwer in July in an episode of Yahoo Finance’s “Influencers with Andy Serwer.” In that interview, Gates similarly criticized the Trump administration for its treatment of public health experts.
“Trying to denigrate Dr. Fauci probably isn't the best approach,” Gates says. “You want the experts to get the air time. Let them talk about what drug trials have worked [and] which ones haven't — don't mislead people on those things.”
“This is a communications exercise,” Gates adds. “So far, the U.S. doesn't get a very high grade.”
Correction: A prior version of this article incorrectly stated that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has contributed more than $350 billion to fight against the pandemic. The foundation has contributed more than $350 million.