Scott Atlas Says He Would 'never' Incite Violence After Tweeting 'rise Up' Over Michigan Covid Rules

White House coronavirus task force member Scott Atlas has denied that his tweet urging Michigan residents to "rise up" over COVID-related restrictions was calling for violence.

Atlas, special advisor to President Trump and senior fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University, said today that a post published Sunday had been misinterpreted after it received significant criticism from other social media users.

"The only way this stops is if people rise up. You get what you accept. #FreedomMatters #StepUp," Atlas wrote on Sunday in response to a new three-week order in Michigan that is limiting indoor and outdoor social gatherings—targeting schools, movie theaters and group sports—in an attempt to curb the spread of the disease.

The statement, which attracted thousands of Twitter comments, was called "dangerous and idiotic" by John Sipher, a former high-ranking Central Intelligence Agency officer. Culinary expert and TV personality Andrew Zimmern responded yesterday by branding Atlas as a being "danger to the health and well being of the American citizenry."

Multiple users said they had reported the tweet for inciting violence. Molly Jong-Fast, an editor-at-large at The Daily Beast said Atlas's post had contained "threatening" language directed at Democratic Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, who was targeted in a kidnapping plot by "violent extremists" this year that was disrupted by the FBI.

In October, federal officials said six men had been arrested and charged with conspiring to kidnap Gov. Whitmer as part of a "violent overthrow" of the state government.

Today, reacting to the weekend social media backlash, Atlas tweeted: "Hey. I NEVER was talking at all about violence. People vote, people peacefully protest. NEVER would I endorse or incite violence."

Atlas has been approached for further comment by Newsweek.

Hey. I NEVER was talking at all about violence. People vote, people peacefully protest. NEVER would I endorse or incite violence. NEVER!! https://t.co/LljvwMvjDV

— Scott W. Atlas (@SWAtlasHoover) November 16, 2020

The attempt at clarification was met with some skepticism on Twitter.

"Stop being disingenuous. You said, 'Rise up!' You said it in the context of knowing the plot against Gov. Whitmer. Sure, you didn't *directly* call for violence, but your implied call for it was crystal clear," tweeted surgical oncologist and professor David Gorski.

"You were urging people in Michigan to vote ... in the next elections, two years from now? Sure, that definitely checks out," wrote historian Kevin M. Kruse.

Atlas's Sunday tweet broadly echoed a post from President Trump back in April, when he wrote "LIBERATE MICHIGAN!" amid earlier lockdown restrictions in the state.

Later that month, armed protesters attempted to enter a legislative chamber in the state capitol of Lansing as politicians debated Gov. Whitmer's request to extend emergency powers during the still-ongoing public health emergency, The Guardian reported.

Michigan's latest COVID curbs

According to the latest data published by the state, there have been more than 250,000 recorded cases of COVID-19 in Michigan, where the disease has claimed 7,994 lives, since the outbreak began.

Gov. Whitmer announced the fresh restrictions yesterday, with a Department of Health and Human Services release saying COVID cases were "rapidly rising."

Under the order, indoor residential gatherings are limited to two households at any one time. Bars and restaurants are staying open for outdoor dining, carry-out and delivery only. Gyms will also remain open for individual exercise, the agency said.

Gov. Whitmer urged all residents to adhere to the new rules, tweeting: "In the spring, we listened to public health experts and saved thousands of lives together. I am personally asking each and every one of you to channel that same energy and do everything in your power to protect our communities from this virus and save lives again."

In the spring, we listened to public health experts and saved thousands of lives together.

I am personally asking each and every one of you to channel that same energy and do everything in your power to protect our communities from this virus and save lives again.

— Governor Gretchen Whitmer (@GovWhitmer) November 16, 2020

Gov. Whitmer said yesterday there are now thousands of cases recorded every day and hundreds of deaths per week. "The number is growing," she said. "If we don't act now, thousands more will die, and our hospitals will continue to be overwhelmed."

Scott Atlas
Member of the coronavirus task force Scott Atlas listens to US President Donald Trump during a briefing at the White House August 10, 2020. Atlas' Twitter post saying Michigan residents should "rise up" against COVID-19 restrictions has faced a backlash. BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty