Dr. Francis Collins, a top U.S. health official, was caught off-guard when he was asked for the first time about a report issued by members of Congress that revealed new information, including the email Collins sent urging a “takedown” of the Great Barrington Declaration, according to an email obtained by The Epoch Times.
Collins, the head of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) until Dec. 19, 2021, called for a “quick and devastating published takedown” of the declaration, which called for a more balanced approach to combating the COVID-19 pandemic, in an email in October 2020.
The email, sent just days after the document was authored by three epidemiologists, was made public by a congressional panel near the end of 2021.
In an appearance on Fox News just hours after the panel’s report was released, Collins was confronted about the email for the first time. Host Neil Cavuto asked Collins about the report’s claims that the White House under President Donald Trump made attempts to “undermine the COVID response.”
Collins, now a senior investigator at the NIH and a top adviser to President Joe Biden, said he was “trying to stay out of the political side of this” and declined to comment before Cavuto asked about the “takedown” email.
“Well, OK, if it’s that specific,” Collins said.
“Yes, there were people, particularly Dr. Scott Atlas, that said don’t worry about this business of putting on masks or asking people to isolate themselves or stay physically distanced, ‘just let it rip’ and let this virus run through the country until everybody has had it, and then we’ll have herd immunity,’” he added. “But the consequence of that would have been hundreds of thousands of additional deaths. That didn’t make sense to me.”
Atlas was a top health adviser to Trump.
The declaration doesn’t contain the words “let it rip,” two of its authors have noted. The document noted that lockdowns had a devastating impact on the United States and other countries and urged officials to implement more focused policies that protected the elderly and other people more vulnerable to COVID-19 while letting others live their lives.
Collins wasn’t expecting to be questioned about the email he sent to Drs. Anthony Fauci, Clifford Lane, and Lawrence Tabak, according to the email obtained by The Epoch Times from a Freedom of Information Act request.
“Apologies for the ambush,” Emma Wojtowicz, an NIH spokeswoman, told Collins in the missive.
“The producer said the interview would focus on Omicron and your time as director,” she added.
Wojtowicz sent a link to the congressional panel report and pasted the section relating to Collins.
Renate Myles, another NIH spokeswoman, told The Epoch Times in an email that Collins was surprised during the interview.
“His surprise was that the issue of the Great Barrington Declaration, which arose in 2020 and about which he has made his position clear on many occasions, was being raised in 2021 as if it were a new issue because of the release of a year-old email,” Myles said.