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Trump Covid Adviser Dr. Scott Atlas Walks Back Tweet Urging People to ‘Rise Up’ Against Michigan Governor’s New Pandemic Restrictions

Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

Dr. Scott Atlas, President Donald Trump’s preferred coronavirus adviser, went viral Sunday for a tweet criticizing new pandemic restrictions imposed by Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer — a tweet that he walked back a few hours later, but did not offer any apology.

Atlas’ original tweet came in response to one that Huffington Post reporter Philip Lewis posted about new restrictions that Whitmer was enacting as Covid-19 cases have spiked alarmingly, in her state and across the country.

On  Sunday, the U.S. surpassed 11 million coronavirus cases, with hospitalizations also at an all-time high. Nearly a quarter of a million Americans have died from the virus.

“The only way this stops is if people rise up,” Atlas tweeted on Sunday. “You get what you accept. #FreedomMatters #StepUp.”

Atlas has been sharply criticized for some of his comments about how to respond to the pandemic — including claiming masks don’t work and pushing a “herd immunity” approach that an actual infectious disease expert called a “most amazing combination of pixie dust and pseudoscience.” He has frequently been at odds with other members of the White House coronavirus task force, like Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx. Nonetheless, because Atlas’ views more closely align with the president’s, he has remained a close adviser to the president.

Reaction to Atlas’ tweet was swift, loud, and highly critical, with many calling it irresponsible to encourage people to “rise up” against a governor who was recently the target of a plot to kidnap and murder her.

A few hours later, Atlas posted a tweet that he said was intended to “clarify the obvious,” arguing that pandemic policy in the U.S. was “federally supported” and then “state managed” and “locally implemented.”

“Want more mandates & lockdown? Contact your governor,” the tweet continued. “That’s state controlled. Not federal. Period.”

The tweet seemed to be inadequate to quiet his critics.

Then, finally, a little less than an hour later, Atlas tried to explain himself on Twitter again.

“Hey,” he tweeted. “I NEVER was talking at all about violence. People vote, people peacefully protest. NEVER would I endorse or incite violence. NEVER!!

Many Twitter users remained skeptical, noting Atlas’ claim that he was talking about people voting rang false when we literally just had an election, and others noted a similarity with Trump’s “stand back and stand by” comments about the Proud Boys.

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