The comments came in a subtweet that Atlas made to a reporter's tweet on November 15 that described new rules issued by Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer designed to prevent spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus by halting in-person learning in schools and shutting down indoor restaurant dining, among other steps.
In his subtweet, Atlas wrote, "The only way this stops is if people rise up."
The Atlas comments immediately drew criticism from commentators who accused Atlas of fomenting violence. The situation is especially sensitive in Michigan, where Whitmer was allegedly the target of a kidnapping plot by right-wing extremists. Thirteen suspects were arrested in October in connection with the plot.
The Michigan State Capitol was also the scene in May of several protests by armed opponents of the state's lockdown rules. Armed groups entered the capitol building and brandished guns while standing above lawmakers in session.
Critics of the most recent Atlas tweet included prominent radiologist Dr. Geraldine McGinty, who suggested that Atlas was "inciting violence" with his tweet and that Twitter should investigate whether his comments violated the service's rules.
Other prominent radiologists also weighed in, including Dr. Carolyn Meltzer.
In comments made on Twitter late Sunday, Atlas denied he was suggesting that Michigan residents resort to violence.
Atlas is a neuroradiologist who was appointed in August as an advisor to the White House on the COVID-19 pandemic. He has been a vocal critic of lockdown restrictions, and he has clashed with other Trump Administration health officials, such as Dr. Anthony Fauci, who advocate a stronger response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
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