In another tweet later Sunday night, Atlas wrote that he “NEVER was talking at all about violence. People vote, people peacefully protest. NEVER would I endorse or incite violence. NEVER!!”
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said Monday that Atlas’ call to action represented a “grave concern” and warned that it could provoke violence in the state.
“These public health orders are absolutely necessary to preserve human life,” Nessel told CNN. “But once again, here you have members of the Trump administration that are so much more hurtful than they are helpful.”
Atlas, a physician with no expertise in infectious diseases or epidemiology, has won favor in the White House in recent months by advocating against coronavirus restrictions and downplaying the disease’s threat.
He has also publicly attacked Anthony Fauci, accusing the nation’s top infectious disease expert of stoking fears about the pandemic for political purposes ahead of the presidential election earlier this month.
On Monday morning, Fauci rebuked his fellow White House coronavirus task force member for encouraging an uprising in Michigan.
“I totally disagree with it, and I made no secret of that,” Fauci told NBC’s “Today” show. “I mean, I don’t want to say anything against Dr. Atlas as a person, but I totally disagree with the stand he takes. I just do, period.”
Moncef Slaoui, head of the administration’s efforts to hasten vaccine development, also suggested he disapproved of Atlas’ tweet.
“I think it’s very important that everybody understands that their behavior impacts not only themself and their risk of acquiring infection, but that of others and the people around them that they love,” Slaoui told MSNBC.
But Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar appeared to show support for Atlas when asked about the tweet in an interview.
“I’d say to everybody, be guided by science and data, and the data supports keeping our schools open,” Azar told “Fox & Friends,” saying it was “ridiculous” to close places of learning.
Whitmer, a Democrat who was recently the target of a foiled kidnapping plot, has come under repeated attack by the White House for her public health measures throughout the pandemic — with Trump invoking her personally at campaign rallies and his supporters calling for her imprisonment.
In April, Trump memorably tweeted that aggrieved residents should “LIBERATE” Minnesota, Michigan and Virginia — all states where Democratic governors had declared stay-at-home orders.
Michigan and Washington are the two latest states to issue new coronavirus restrictions as caseloads continue to soar across all parts of the country. The most recent record of daily cases was last Friday, when the U.S. notched more than 177,000 new infections.
Over the weekend, the U.S. surpassed 11 million Covid-19 cases in total, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, and more than 246,000 Americans have died thus far from the disease.