In a first for the world’s leading medical journal, which has sought to be nonpartisan, The New England Journal of Medicine published an editorial on Wednesday denouncing the Trump administration’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic and calling on its readers to vote out the president out, writing, “They have taken a crisis and turned it into a tragedy.”
“Anyone else who recklessly squandered lives and money in this way would be suffering legal consequences,” the editorial reads, adding that the upcoming November elections “gives us power to render judgment.”
While not directly endorsing a candidate for president or a political party, the medical journal calls “our current political leaders. . .dangerously incompetent” and that, “We should not abet them and enable the deaths of thousands more Americans by allowing them to keep their jobs.”
The editorial says the U.S. has “consistently behaved poorly” compared to countries starting with specific disadvantages like Japan, South Korea and Vietnam, with the U.S. accounting for 21% of the world’s confirmed coronavirus cases and 20% of global deaths.
The journal cites oft-mentioned failings by the federal government, from the lack of preparation in the run up to the national emergency, to the subsequent shortages of testing and personal protective equipment, to the inconsistent quarantine measures that were lifted too early, to the politicization of face masks, and an abandonment of guidance and assistance to state governors.
The White House is also criticized for undermining the efforts of federal agencies like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration, saying the administration “has turned to uninformed ‘opinion leaders’ and charlatans.”
According to CNN, there have been just four editorials signed by all of the journal’s editors since its founding in 1812 — the others were about contraception, standard-of-care research, Roe v. Wade and an obituary for a former editor-in-chief.
“The United States came into this crisis with enormous advantages,” the editorial reads. “Along with tremendous manufacturing capacity, we have a biomedical research system that is the envy of the world. We have enormous expertise in public health, health policy, and basic biology and have consistently been able to turn that expertise into new therapies and preventive measures. And much of that national expertise resides in government institutions. Yet our leaders have largely chosen to ignore and even denigrate experts.”
The editorial arrives as the White House struggles with an outbreak that has spread through staffers of the West Wing and the residence, as well as GOP lawmakers. President Trump was hospitalized with the virus on Friday and administered three different drugs but returned to the White House on Monday amid questions on the status of his health and treatment. On Wednesday, he broke quarantine and worked in the Oval Office, despite possibly still being contagious. He drew widespread criticism when he tweeted, “Don’t be afraid of Covid,” with politicians and experts pointing out the gold-plated care he was given as president.
Trump in March told journalist Bob Woodward that he downplayed the danger of the virus to avoid panic. That month, when he declared a national emergency, Trump was already pushing to reopen from lockdowns by Easter. Frequently butting heads with health experts on the White House’s coronavirus task force, Trump added Dr. Scott Atlas to the team, a neuroradiologist with no background with infectious diseases. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, said last month that Trump is being fed “either out of context or actually incorrect” information in reference to Atlas. The country still has not emerged from the first wave of the outbreak and is again experiencing a resurgence in cases as a complicated flu season inches closer. The U.S. leads all other countries in confirmed cases with 7.5 million, as well as reported deaths with nearly 212,000.
175 years. That’s how long it took the journal Scientific American to endorse a candidate for president. In September, the publication made history and backed Democratic candidate Vice President Joe Biden.