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The Dissidents

A handful of scientists and doctors have spent the past two years defending mainstream public health approaches and scientific rigor against the pandemic response bureaucracy

Clayton Fox
January 25, 2022
YouTube screenshot
From left, Dr. Martin Kulldorff of Harvard, Dr. Sunetra Gupta of Oxford, and Dr. Jay Bhattacharya of Stanford on LockdownTV from UnHerd, Oct. 5, 2020YouTube screenshot
YouTube screenshot
From left, Dr. Martin Kulldorff of Harvard, Dr. Sunetra Gupta of Oxford, and Dr. Jay Bhattacharya of Stanford on LockdownTV from UnHerd, Oct. 5, 2020YouTube screenshot

Last year I spoke to a long list of leading scientists and doctors for a piece I was reporting. Of all the things they shared with me, one quote stood out:

There is no scientific truth, only replicable science. Then it becomes theory, but not law. And not truth. There are fundamental laws of physics that have been overturned. Law is not truth, law is law, and in science, law can be overturned.

Somehow, in the madness, fear, confusion, and paranoia of our two-year sojourn through COVID-19, that basic definition of scientific truth—that it is ever-evolving, and inimical to dogmatism—has been largely mocked, denigrated, and ignored, if not met with slogans like “believe science.”

This anti-scientific attitude has become common among scientists, too—ones who, like Dr. Anthony Fauci, assume that “attacks on me quite frankly are attacks on science.” There are the medical doctors, who are convinced that results from a single clinical trial, conducted by Pfizer, of Pfizer’s own new antiviral pill are more legitimate than hundreds of clinical trials and observational studies of existing medications not produced by Pfizer. There are scientific and medical journal editors who refuse to publish papers that they believe might undermine existing consensus, preferring instead to publish papers that must later be retracted as fraudulent. Then there are the politicians who have been curiously uninterested in the origins of a novel, mysterious, and paradigm-shifting virus, and the journalists and “fact-checkers” whose work has invariably supported ever-shifting public health wisdom, often by simply quoting press releases from the pharmaceutical companies and government agencies whose claims they’re supposed to be evaluating in the first place.

In the face of censorship, undermining, and mockery driven by authoritarian bureaucrats and tech platforms that increasingly function as private arms of the state, a smaller group of scientists, many of whom are also medical doctors, have continually spoken up to question the scientific consensus on whatever platforms they could find. We’re calling them “The Dissidents,” merely because they have spoken up against official policy. The term’s connotation of rebellion or revolution has nothing to do with what these thinkers represent: In their Talmudic approach to the pandemic, posing questions of questions and questions of other questioners, they are instead voices that have sought to uphold the past 400 years of scientific tradition and practice, rather than overturn it.

Some of their questions have been prescient and vindicated; others might appear conspiratorial or extreme. But the main point is that they have asked and continue to ask questions, while a majority of their peers have done away with the scientific method or have been cowed into silence.

On Monday, Drs. Jay Bhattacharya, Harvey Risch, Pierre Kory, Aaron Kheriaty, Peter McCullough, and Robert Malone appeared together on a panel at the U.S. Capitol moderated by Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., titled “COVID-19: A Second Opinion.” Dr. Malone opened his remarks by making one thing clear:

In my opinion we should not have politicized the public health response to SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19. This is a bipartisan issue, and the physicians represented here are truly a bipartisan group; I’m not, although I’ve been characterized as a right-wing Proud Boy, I’ve previously supported both President Obama and President Biden’s campaigns, but the course of events have forced me to rethink a lot of my positions, and I think that’s the case with many of my peers.


Drs. Jay Bhattacharya of Stanford, Martin Kulldorff of Harvard, and Sunetra Gupta of Oxford came together in October 2020 at Kulldorff’s invitation to discuss alternatives to lockdowns: The Great Barrington Declaration was born. In that document, they suggested a strategy akin to what Sweden had done: Focused protection of the elderly and the most vulnerable, and normal life for everyone else, with the goal of avoiding unintended harms—physical, mental, developmental, and economic—among the broader population. Over 60,000 medical professionals have signed on.

The GB3 advocated this approach on the basis of precedent, which had shown that lockdowns “do not reduce the total number of cases in the long run and have never in history led to the eradication of a disease.” The current waves of COVID in Australia, New Zealand, and China help illustrate this hypothesis.

Scientific papers authored or co-authored by the GB3 have been cited by other scientists a total of 59,145 times (and counting). But neither their long publication histories nor their lofty academic affiliations mattered to Dr. Francis Collins, then-director of the National Institutes of Health, when he called them “the three fringe epidemiologists” in an October 2020 email to Fauci of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. In the emails, recently released via Freedom of Information Act request, the two leaders of the United States’ medical science establishment colluded to discredit the three leading scientists and their message because it dissented from what was then state orthodoxy.

All three have taken flak from colleagues; the noise may have reached its apotheosis on Martin Luther King Jr. Day 2022, when the editor-in-chief of Science magazine tweeted in response to Kulldorff, “I don’t think it’s going out on a limb to say that MLK would not have been a fan of the Great Barrington Declaration.” Says who?


Dr. Harvey Risch is professor of epidemiology and a cancer etiologist at the Yale School of Public Health. He has authored more than 350 original peer-reviewed research papers, which have been cited by others more than 44,000 times. He tells Tablet he has read “nearly 3,000” scientific papers and documents on COVID over the past two years.

In April 2020, Risch was asked to advise the state of Connecticut on potential early outpatient treatment options. His initial review of the evidence was published on May 27, 2020, and it concluded that given the options available at the time, the use of hydroxychloroquine in combination with azithromycin and/or doxycycline, and zinc could be used in outpatients to prevent hospitalization.

In August of 2020, other epidemiologists published a rebuttal to his initial review, criticizing aspects of his methodology and the quality of evidence cited. But Risch has continually monitored the emerging data, and in June 2021, he gave a lecture in which he presented a new meta-analysis in favor of his original case, citing 10 studies (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10), eight of which were newly incorporated. At the very least, his work shows that the case against hydroxychloroquine isn’t “settled.”

Risch mentions in his lecture that he supports using hydroxychloroquine with some of its “friends,” e.g., azithromycin or doxycycline, colchicine, fluvoxamine, budesonide, zinc, vitamin D, bromhexine, or aspirin. He says “HCQ works by itself, but not well enough, really for what we want to accomplish.” He has championed early outpatient treatment using cocktails of repurposed, FDA-approved pharmaceuticals, including in front of a Senate committee on Nov. 19, 2020.

He told Tablet that the question he would most like answered in 2022 is, “For whose interests did these regulatory agencies [FDA, CDC] contrive to abet the needless deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans who could have been saved by use of early outpatient treatment that these agencies suppressed?”


Dr. Robert Malone was a young man in 1987-89 when he helped develop the initial concept for the RNA and DNA vaccines later brought to fruition in the current vaccines produced by Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, et al. In the past 20 years he has worked extensively in biotechnology, developing vaccines and consulting with the U.S. government on biodefense. The saga of Malone and COVID can be tied to two podcast episodes on which he appeared during the pandemic.

The first was a June 11, 2021 episode of Bret Weinstein’s DarkHorse podcast featuring Malone, Weinstein, and the entrepreneur Steve Kirsch. For three hours, the three discussed both observed and theoretical information that suggested the possibility that mRNA vaccines might be dangerous for some recipients. By virtue of his expertise, Malone explained the potential mechanism of action that might cause damage (starting at 13:10 in the podcast). Malone himself received two doses of Moderna and says he suffered severe and sudden hypertension (high blood pressure) as a result.

Throughout 2021, Malone helped lead the charge for greater scrutiny of vaccine safety while being pilloried by tech platforms as a vector of disinformation, incurring warning labels on his descriptions of vaccines that he helped to conceive. He has been unequivocal in his plea to avoid giving mRNA vaccines to children. The Atlantic has since painted him as a fame-hungry spreader of misinformation, and he has been kicked off of Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube. (He is now on Substack.)

The culmination of Malone’s public communication efforts last year came on Dec. 30, when he sat down with Joe Rogan to discuss all things COVID. One of Malone’s assertions in the now-infamous podcast stood out: the concept of Mass Formation Psychosis and its role in the current pandemic.

When queried, Malone told Tablet that his most pressing question for 2022 is, “What did Tony Fauci, Francis Collins, and Jeremy Farrar discuss, using burner phones to avoid detection, when it became clear that they had funded the development (by EcoHealth Alliance) of the SARS-CoV-2 virus?”


Dr. Vinay Prasad is a hematologist/oncologist and associate professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of California San Francisco, who first made waves by challenging the shibboleths of corporate medicine, as summarized in a 2017 Stat news profile.

Prasad’s commentary during the pandemic has extended to many topics, but the first, and dearest to his heart, has been the importance of remaining open to all points of view in trying to solve the crisis. To that end, he recently decided to listen to the entirety of Joe Rogan’s popular podcasts with Malone and Dr. Peter McCullough to try and break down, issue by issue, the substance of their claims, rather than dismiss them wholesale with scare-words like “fringe” or “dangerous.”

Prasad has been a source for acute analysis of the benefits and risks of vaccination for young men vulnerable to myocarditis, and a consistent voice in questioning the wisdom and efficacy of mask mandates, especially for schoolchildren. He first wrote about the need for better evidence in masking on Nov. 27, 2020, and on myocarditis on June 29, 2021. (Note: Dr. Prasad is a contributor to Tablet.)


Dr. Marty Makary is professor of surgery at Johns Hopkins and a health care reformer. He has been a regular presence on television and in the pages of major newspapers, delivering his views on what a sensible response to the pandemic might look like.

One major focus for Makary has been on the importance of recognizing natural immunity to SARS-CoV-2, acquired by previous infection. He has continually pushed for the government and employers to recognize natural immunity in addition to immunity conferred by vaccines when considering mandates, which is normal throughout Europe. A new CDC study released on Jan. 19, 2022, appeared to lend credence to Makary’s analysis.

Newly elected Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin recently appointed Makary to be his adviser on pandemic response.


Dr. Peter McCullough’s academic work has been cited by other authors 63,953 times, according to Google Scholar. He is a renowned cardiologist and nephrologist, and was one of the first physicians to loudly and consistently promote the idea of early outpatient treatment for COVID-19—first on Aug. 7, 2020, in an early paper on potential protocols for multidrug treatment, and then alongside Risch in front of the U.S. Senate on Nov. 19, 2020. To those who’ve attacked him for his emphasis on hydroxychloroquine or ivermectin as treatment components, he emphasizes that he has also promoted FDA emergency use authorized monoclonal antibody treatments, which have been greatly underutilized.

In 2021, McCullough’s crusade expanded from early treatment to vaccine safety. While initially many patients in his practice in Dallas were vaccinated, by March 2021, he started to have doubts about vaccine safety, as reports of injury and death began to accrue in the VAERS database. On May 7, 2021, McCullough was invited on Tucker Carlson Today for a 45-minute interview in which he made his concerns known.

Specifically, McCullough emphasizes that a one-size-fits-all approach to vaccination is wrong—that it should instead be recommended on the basis of specific risk-benefit calculations for different populations. “The idea that we’re going to roll out new products and get it right the first time, how often does that happen in medicine?” he said. “We’ve always got to tweak things, maybe there’s certain groups that shouldn’t get it, maybe the doses are too high, maybe the doses should be weight-based, there’s all kinds of things to consider.”

McCullough then traveled across the country, speaking in town hall formats and doctors conferences, as well as continuing to engage online. By the time of an Oct. 2, 2021, speech summarizing his concerns, he said the current COVID vaccines “cannot be generally supported in clinical practice” due to safety signals. In December 2021, he was a featured guest on Joe Rogan’s podcast. To date, he has been fired from all of his prior academic medical positions and is being sued by his former employer, Baylor University, for $1,000,000 for breach of contract.

McCullough has become conspicuously vocal about the nefarious intentions he believes undergird the COVID vaccine program and the overall governmental response to the pandemic; not to acknowledge those views, too, would be misleading. At the same time, I spoke to McCullough last year for two hours and did not find him to be “far out.” He struck me as a sensible and brilliant everyman who has been pushed to his breaking point by two years of irrationality and therapeutic nihilism.

McCullough told Tablet that the person who has most dramatically changed his thinking of late is Robert F. Kennedy Jr., whose work has helped him understand that the crisis has been used “to orchestrate a totalitarian takeover based on an ineffective and unsafe set of genetic vaccines.”


Dr. Kory is a pulmonary and critical care medicine specialist and a former associate professor and chief of the Critical Care Service at the University of Wisconsin. He is also an internationally renowned pioneer in the field of critical care ultrasonography. As a native New Yorker, he is evidently unafraid to speak up—loudly.

If there is one subject on which Kory has distinguished himself, it is his ferocious insistence on the importance of letting doctors doctor. He was one of the first to advocate for the need to administer corticosteroids in hospitalized patients, and said so before the U.S. Senate on May 6, 2020. On July 17, 2020, his cries were vindicated by a trial out of the United Kingdom. Corticosteroids are now standard care for COVID-19 in hospitals worldwide.

Kory’s ensuing crusades included the need for more and better outpatient treatment and the potential of a Nobel Prize-winning drug with antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties called ivermectin. Kory and his group of critical care specialists, the FLCCC, felt they had found a miraculous gift in ivermectin. Kory was invited to speak again to the U.S. Senate on this topic on Dec. 8, 2020. As the recording of his impassioned speech during a Senate hearing about the importance of early treatment and the utility of ivermectin gained viewers, YouTube removed it on Jan. 27, 2021.

Kory remains an outspoken voice for aggressive outpatient and inpatient care of COVID-19 and a skeptic of the public health response. When I spoke to him last year for background on a different story, I asked what allows him to ignore the damage to his reputation caused by speaking out. He answered, characteristically, “data.” He went on, “What keeps me going is not the getting dragged, it’s the success! Thousands around the world we know we’ve helped, many doctors in India know that it works. I know we’re helping people.”


Since 2013, Dr. Aaron Kheriaty has been the director of the Medical Ethics program at the University of California Irvine. In August of 2021, the university imposed a campuswide vaccine mandate. Kheriaty had previously been ill with COVID and sued the school in federal court for an exemption due to prior infection and naturally acquired immunity.

He was placed on paid leave in October 2021 and fired on Dec. 17, 2021. His goodbye letter to his former colleagues and students got a lot of attention online. Since then, he has been extremely active in media (and on his Substack) in continuing his quest for medical ethics and informed consent in the application of COVID policies.

In a recent interview, when asked how he made peace with his decision in light of the fact it robbed him of his his beloved community at UCI, he responded, “When I decided to file the lawsuit, I was projecting ahead to the ethics course I would be teaching [this time of year] and tried to imagine myself standing up in the lecture hall and talking about informed consent, a foundational principle of bioethics, and the need for moral courage … I couldn’t imagine teaching about integrity and moral courage if I had seen something troubling that unfolded around me and my actions didn’t back up what I taught in the classroom.”


Dr. Bret Weinstein and his wife, Dr. Heather Heying, are evolutionary biologists, and it should be noted, avowed liberals who live in Portland, Oregon. After they were run out of Evergreen College in Washington state for trying to teach normally scheduled classes during an officially sanctioned “day of absence,” when all white people were told to leave campus, they went indie. Their DarkHorse podcast has become widely influential since its 2019 debut, but it is in the context of the pandemic that Weinstein and Heying have become essential listening for many. Their analysis has repeatedly proven prescient over the past 22 months.

On their March 26, 2020, episode, Heying asked Weinstein for his thoughts on a potential vaccinal escape route from the pandemic. “There is a lot seeming to be banked on the fact that a vaccine is … around the corner and if we can just hold out long enough … life goes back to normal,” he answered, during a moment when public health officials and the American press were universally promising that it would take a mere two weeks to flatten the curve. “I suspect life never goes back to normal,” he continued. “We are not going to live in quarantine from here on out, but I think humanity just learned a very serious lesson about something that will be much harder to control than we imagine …”

In the next podcast, dated March 30, 2020, they discussed the possibility of zoonosis, accidental “lab leak,” and/or bioweapon hypotheses related to the etiology of SARS-CoV-2. The conversation was notable for its dispassionate, scientific approach. Fourteen months later—after a monumental media blitz that attempted to discredit anyone posing the latter two hypotheses—former CDC director and virologist Dr. Robert Redfield stated that he believed the virus originated in a lab.

Weinstein and Heying have gone on to interrogate several facets of the pandemic and our response to it, including the continued imperative to investigate the lab leak hypothesis, the evolutionary implications of mRNA technology, the potential for vaccine-induced damage, the need for early treatment of COVID-19, the potential for the program of mass vaccination to drive mutations toward new immune escape variants, vaccine passports, and what all of this means for our future as a society. They recently recorded their 112th livestream.

Clayton Fox writes Tablet’s daily newsletter, The Scroll, alongside Sean Cooper and Jacob Siegel. He has written independently for Tablet, Real Clear Investigations, Brownstone Institute, American Theatre magazine, Los Angeles Magazine and The American Conservative. Follow him on Twitter @clayfoxwriter