On March 16, Richard A. Epstein of the Hoover Institution wrote an article titled "Coronavirus Perspective," which stated that "public officials have gone overboard" in efforts to stop the spread of the virus, and that only about 500 people in the U.S. would die from coronavirus. The Washington Post reported that Epstein's article was widely circulated in the White House.
Isaac Chotiner interviewed Epstein for The New Yorker, and Epstein quickly lost his cool at the questions Chotiner was asking:
Epstein: Looking at the data thus far, both theories tend to predict a sharp rise at the beginning, mine less sharp than the one that's coming out.
In the next week or so, we'll see. I will be, shall we say, much more compromised if we start to see a continuing explosion of deaths going on for two or three weeks. But, if the numbers start to level off, the curves will start to go downward.
I was just asking about—
Epstein: I'm saying what I think to be the truth. I mean, I just find it incredible—
I know, but these are scientific issues here.
Epetein: You know nothing about the subject but are so confident that you're going to say that I'm a crackpot.
Epstein: That's what you're saying, isn't it? That's what you're saying?
I'm not saying anything of the sort.
Epstein: Admit to it. You're saying I'm a crackpot.
I'm not saying anything of the—
Epstein: Well, what am I then? I'm an amateur? You're the great scholar on this?
No, no. I'm not a great scholar on this.
Epstein: Tell me what you think about the quality of the work!
O.K. I'm going to tell you. I think the fact that I am not a great scholar on this and I'm able to find these flaws or these holes in what you wrote is a sign that maybe you should've thought harder before writing it.
Esetein: What it shows is that you are a complete intellectual amateur. Period.
O.K. Can I ask you one more question?
Epstein: You just don't know anything about anything. You're a journalist. Would you like to compare your résumé to mine?
No, actually, I would not.
Epstein: Then good. Then maybe what you want to do is to say, "Gee, I'm not quite sure that this is right. I'm going to check with somebody else." But, you want to come at me hard, I am going to come back harder at you. And then if I can't jam my fingers down your throat, then I am not worth it. But you have basically gone over the line. If you want to ask questions, ask questions. I put forward a model. But a little bit of respect.