October 9, 2020
Throughout its 208-year history, the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine has remained staunchly nonpartisan. Indeed, the world’s leading medical journal has never supported or condemned a political candidate.
In an editorial signed by 34 editors who are United States citizens (one editor is not) and published on Wednesday, October 7, the journal said the Trump Administration had responded so poorly to the coronavirus pandemic that the POTUS and his minions “have taken a crisis and turned it into a tragedy.”
The editor in chief, Dr. Eric Rubin, told the Times that the scathing editorial was one of only four in the journal’s history that were signed by all of the editors. NEJM’s editors join those of another influential journal, Scientific American, who last month endorsed Biden, the former vice president.
The political leadership has failed Americans in many ways that contrast vividly with responses from leaders in other countries, NEJM said.
“It should be clear that we are not a political organization,” Rubin said. “But pretty much every week in our editorial meeting there would be some new outrage.”
“How can you not speak out at a time like this?” he added.
In the United States, the journal said, there was too little testing for the virus, especially early on. There was too little protective equipment, and a lack of national leadership on important measures like mask wearing, social distancing, quarantine and isolation.
As a result, the United States has had tens of thousands of “excess” deaths — those caused both directly and indirectly by the pandemic — as well as immense economic pain and an increase in social inequality as the virus hit disadvantaged communities hardest.
The editors castigated the Trump administration’s rejection of science, writing, “Instead of relying on expertise, the administration has turned to uninformed ‘opinion leaders’ and charlatans who obscure the truth and facilitate the promulgation of outright lies.”
The uncharacteristically pungent editorial called for change: “When it comes to the response to the largest public health crisis of our time, our current political leaders have demonstrated that they are dangerously incompetent. We should not abet them and enable the deaths of thousands more Americans by allowing them to keep their jobs.”
Research contact: @nytimes