Trump's COVID-19 Pandemic Adviser Says He Was Duped Into Appearing on Russian State TV

White House coronavirus pandemic adviser Dr. Scott Atlas apologized Sunday afternoon in a tweet for appearing on Russian state television over the weekend—with the "herd immunity" proponent explaining he was "taken advantage of" by the Kremlin-controlled RT network.

Atlas told RT Saturday that government lockdown measures, and to a lesser extent coronavirus, are what's really killing people:

"The lockdowns... will go down as an epic failure of public policy by people who refused to accept they were wrong - were wrong, refused to accept they were wrong, didn't know the data, didn't care and became a frenzy of stopping COVID-19 cases at all costs."

"And those costs are massive," Atlas added. "And what's happening here is that the argument is undeniable. The lockdowns are killing people but they're not really impactful, the lockdowns."

His TV appearance comes amid recent comments made by Dr. Anthony Fauci of his White House Coronavirus Task Force colleague in a Washington Post story: "I have real problems with that guy."

Atlas responded to criticism from Fauci, U.S. journalists and other medical experts Sunday by describing his appearance as a mistake.

I recently did an interview with RT and was unaware they are a registered foreign agent. I regret doing the interview and apologize for allowing myself to be taken advantage of. I especially apologize to the national security community who is working hard to defend us.

— Scott W. Atlas (@SWAtlasHoover) November 1, 2020

"I recently did an interview with RT and was unaware they are a registered foreign agent. I regret doing the interview and apologize for allowing myself to be taken advantage of. I especially apologize to the national security community who is working hard to defend us," Atlas tweeted Sunday afternoon.

Atlas is the former chief of neuroradiology at Stanford University Medical Center. He had frequently appeared on Fox News prior to Trump tapping him to join the White House Coronavirus Task Force in August months into the pandemic.

Critics said Atlas' opposition to lockdown restrictions, his push to re-open schools, and his promotion of a "herd immunity" aligned much more closely with President Donald Trump than did the scientific opinions of Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx.

Atlas has argued that it's a good thing for younger, healthier Americans to be exposed to coronavirus, arguing children are at "zero risk" in remarks which the Associated Press labeled false over the summer.

The author and senior fellow at the Hoover Institute has sought to maintain a level-headed, calming voice within the Trump administration's response to the pandemic. During one of his Fox News appearances just before joining the task force, Atlas said news media "hysteria" over COVID-19 was partially to blame for the country's troubles fighting it off.

He was dragged on social media overnight by a wide range of political pundits and journalists. CNN national security analyst Sam Vinograd responded: "A metaphor for Trump's presidency - his handpicked "adviser" is openly helping Russia Atlas is spreading misinfo and divisions via RT. Russia's mission is to spread divisions, one of their tactics is misinfo. RT is a registered Russian foreign agent."

A metaphor for Trump’s presidency - his handpicked “adviser” is openly helping Russia

Atlas is spreading misinfo and divisions via RT.

Russia’s mission is to spread divisions, one of their tactics is misinfo.

RT is a registered Russian foreign agent. https://t.co/FT9w1l8erj

— Sam Vinograd (@sam_vinograd) November 1, 2020

Fauci said of Atlas in a Washington Post interview published Saturday: "He's a smart guy who's talking about things that I believe he doesn't have any real insight or knowledge or experience in."

In response to Trump's diagnosis with COVID-19 last month, Atlas told Fox News that the infection is "very difficult to avoid," urging both the president and the American people "there is zero reason to panic."

Newsweek reached out to the White House and Atlas for additional remarks Sunday afternoon.

scott atlas russian state tv
US President Donald Trump introduces Senior Fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution, Dr. Scott Atlas, during a news conference in the Brady Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on August 12, 2020 NICHOLAS KAMM / AFP/Getty Images