The New England Journal of Medicine and JAMA  (Photo by Rick Meyer/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
The New England Journal of Medicine and JAMA (Photo by Rick Meyer/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

For the first time in its over 200-year history, the prestigious medical journal endorsed a presidential candidate.

The New England Journal of Medicine—one of the oldest and most prestigious medical journals published in the United States—has never endorsed or denounced a candidate for president. That changed this week, when the journal urged readers to vote the current administration out of office.

In an editorial titled “Dying in a Leadership Vaccum,” which is signed by 34 editors, the journal argued that the Trump administration has been “dangerously incompetent” in its handling of the coronavirus pandemic and that “the magnitude of this failure is astonishing.” According to the publication: President Trump has “taken a crisis and turned it into a tragedy.”

While the journal did not mention the Trump administration by its name, the implication was clear. The editorial did not explicitly mention or endorse Joe Biden, but as The New York Times reported, the editorial can be inferred as an endorsement of the Democratic nominee.

“Our current leaders have undercut trust in science and in government, causing damage that will certainly outlast them,” the NEJM editorial stated. “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 United States ranks first in the world for both the number of cases and deaths due to the COVID-19. The editorial, which is only the fourth ever to be signed by all New England Journal of Medicine staff editors, noted that the death rate in the United States is over double that of Canada and far surpasses Japan, which has a more elderly (and, thus, vulnerable) population. The death rate in the United States “even dwarfs the rates in lower-middle-income countries, such as Vietnam, by a factor of almost 2000,” the editorial added.

“Why has the United States handled this pandemic so badly? We have failed at almost every step,” the journal added. “We had ample warning, but when the disease first arrived, we were incapable of testing effectively and couldn’t provide even the most basic personal protective equipment to health care workers and the general public. And we continue to be way behind the curve in testing.”

The New England Journal of Medicine is not the only medical or scientific publication taking a stance this year. In September, Scientific American published an editorial officially endorsing former Vice President Joe Biden for the presidency—the first and only time it had done so within its 175-year history. It also cited a long list of failings by the Trump administration, ranging from outright rejection and manipulation of scientific evidence for political gain to opposing $25 billion for increased testing and tracing.

As of Thursday, an estimated 7.5 million Americans have contracted the virus, and more than 212,000 died from COVID-19 complications. Trump and his administration have repeatedly attempted to undermine the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other public health officials, while ignoring social distancing and mask guidelines encouraged by scientists to reduce the virus’ transmission rate. 

The administration’s refusal to abide by scientific recommendations on coronavirus transmission has also had consequences within the White House. Both Trump and first lady Melania Trump tested positive for COVID-19, and numerous supporters, White House staff, and campaign event staff were exposed to the coronavirus by him.

An internal memo released on Thursday stated that 34 White House staffers contracted the virus, including top-ranking aides Hope Hicks and Stephen Miller, White House Press Secretary Kayliegh McEnany, and former counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway. Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.)—all of whom are close Trump allies—also contracted the virus. 

Over the weekend, the president was also hospitalized at Walter Reed Medical Center. While there, Trump received numerous medications that everyday Americans likely would not have access too, including an experimental antibody cocktail made by Regeneron and strong steroids. After returning to the White House, Trump continued to downplay the virus to the public.

“Reasonable people will certainly disagree about the many political positions taken by candidates,” the editorial added. “But [the] truth is neither liberal nor conservative. When it comes to the response to the largest public health crisis of our time, our current political leaders have demonstrated that they are dangerously incompetent. We should not abet them and enable the deaths of thousands more Americans by allowing them to keep their jobs.”