New England Journal of Medicine Editor in Chief: 'Throw the Bums Out'

October 9, 2020

In an interview with Axios about the first political editorial in the journal's history, Editor-in-Chief Eric Rubin says it is not an endorsement of Joe Biden but sends the message to "simply throw the bums out" and not vote for Donald Trump.

The New England Journal of Medicine didn’t name Donald Trump, but in the first overtly political editorial in its history, the journal’s editors referred to current political leaders as “dangerously incompetent” and advised that “we should not abet them and enable the deaths of thousands more Americans by allowing them to keep their jobs.”

“I think it is easy to interpret this as saying as you should not vote for Donald Trump,” Eric Rubin, M.D., Ph.D., the journal’s editor in chief said in an podcast interview with Axios that was posted earlier today. “It is not an endorsement of Joe Biden. It is simply, kinda, throw the bums out.”

Rubin said in the interview that the editorial didn’t name anyone because, in part, “there are a lot of leaders. And there is blame to go around.”

The two-page editorial, titled “Dying in a Leadership Vacuum,” and published in today’s issue of NEJM, says the response of the nation’s leaders has been “consistently inadequate” and describes the CDC as “eviscerated,” the National Institutes of Health as excluded from crucial government decision making, and the FDA as “shamefully politicized.”

“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 editorial says.

Rubin has been editor in chief of the prestigious journal since September 2019. Before NEJM, he was chair of the Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Rubin's research focused on tuberculosis.

In the Axios interview Rubin said he viewed the failure of the country's response as a leadership failure not as a political one.

“We failed to do simple things," he said. "We are the most powerful country in the world. And yet we are being shown up by many other places — and it is not a contest. It means that these places are saving people’s lives and we are throwing these lives away. It’s outrageous. I think people need to think about that strictly within the confines of COVID-19, but, in a more general sense, our leaders have been presented with a crisis and that is the real test of leadership. They failed.”

Asked about whether there should be a national mask mandate, Rubin didn’t give a yes or no answer. He said that public health in this country is run at the state level and that didn’t necessarily need to change. But Rubin noted that states depend on the federal government for expertise.

As for mask wearing, Rubin said “at the very least people should understand what it means not to wear a mask. It is not a political decision. The simple truth is that masks work, and if they choose not to wear them, they are putting themselves and everyone else at risk.”