Stanford professor Jay Bhattacharya joins Ron DeSantis’ 2024 presidential campaign kickoff

May 25, 2023, 12:20 a.m.

Florida governor Ron DeSantis announced his 2024 presidential campaign bid through Twitter earlier today on May 24, garnering more than 1.3 million views on his 2-hour Twitter Space live. Stanford professor of health policy Jayanta Bhattacharya A.M, A.B ’90, MD ’97, Ph.D. ’00, was featured as a speaker on the live stream alongside figures like Twitter CEO Elon Musk and PayPal founding COO David Sacks.

Bhattacharya and DeSantis have worked together in the past on COVID-related issues, with both figures having historically supported the easing of pandemic restrictions. At Stanford, Bhattacharya is the director of the Center on Demography and Economics of Health and Aging and a senior fellow of the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, among other appointments.

During the live broadcast, Bhattacharya said it was “an absolute honor” to work with Desantis and praised what he described as DeSantis’ abilities to make decisions on COVID-19-related issues despite criticism. He expressed support for DeSantis’ rolling back certain pandemic-induced restrictions, including school closures, saying, “Governor, you did the right thing when you opened the schools.”

The Daily has reached out to Bhattacharya for comment.

Bhattacharya, who has been a critic of COVID-19 restrictions such as mask mandates and lockdowns, co-authored The Great Barrington Declaration. The declaration proposed herd immunity as a potential solution to the COVID-19 pandemic, which sparked a series of controversies within scientific and public health communities.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, former director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, called the declaration “nonsense and very dangerous.”

After offering praise of DeSantis’ curtailing of pandemic-induced restrictions, Bhattacharya asked about the governor’s plans to reform the authority of federal public health, including the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and National Institutes of Health, “so that the mistakes of the lockdown that happened in the pandemic don’t happen again when there’s another pandemic.”

YouTube had previously censored a video of a COVID-19 policy roundtable of DeSantis and four other scientists — Bhattacharya included — flagging it for misinformation. Bhattacharya brought up the matter during the Twitter Space live, specifically alleging the federal government’s role in suppressing scientific discussion.

“It’s not just public health agencies, but other agencies inside the federal government work to suppress the speech of Americans,” Bhattacharya said during the live.

On Bhattacharya’s YouTube channel, the Stanford professor and DeSantis had previously spoken about the COVID-19 lockdown and the overall state of public health. When DeSantis lifted Florida-statewide restrictions on businesses, Bhattacharya commended the decision on The Tom Woods Show, saying, “There’s this like combination of… bravery, intellectual bravery and also willingness to take a stand and sort of a knowledge that I’ve never seen in a politician,” referring to DeSantis.

Bhattacharya teaches a variety of undergraduate and graduate-level courses, in addition to supervising master’s research and Ph.D. dissertations.

The Daily has reached out to the University and the School of Medicine for comment.

Grace Lee is a University desk editor and was formerly a Magazine editor.

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