John Ioannidis’s controversial studies claim that the coronavirus isn’t that big a threat. Before the Stanford scientist did any of them, he wanted to take that message to the White House.


Stanford University scientist John Ioannidis has declared in study after study that the coronavirus isn't that big of a threat, emboldening opponents of economic shutdowns — and infuriating critics who see fundamental errors in his work.

But even before the epidemiologist had any of that data in hand, he and an elite of scientists tried to convince President Donald Trump that locking down the country would be the important danger.

In late March, as COVID-19 cases overran hospitals overseas, Ioannidis tried to arrange a gathering at the White House where he and alittle band of colleagues would caution the president against “shutting down the country for [a] very while and jeopardizing numerous lives in doing this,” consistent with a press release Ioannidis submitted on the group’s behalf. Their goal, the statement said, was “to both save more lives and avoid serious damage to the US economy using the foremost reliable data.”

Although the meeting didn't happen, Ioannidis believed their message had reached the proper people. Within each day of him sending it to the White House, Trump announced that he wanted the country reopened by Easter. “I think our ideas have inflitrated [sic] the White House regardless,” Ioannidis told his collaborators on March 28, in one among dozens of emails that BuzzFeed News obtained through public records requests.