The cancel crowd has come for Dr. Leana Wen. More than 500 people, including many prominent names in medicine and science, have signed a letter demanding that the CNN and Washington Post contributor and professor of health policy at George Washington University be banned from speaking at the November annual meeting of the American Public Health Association. Wen’s alleged crimes, her detractors claim, include being “unscientific” for urging a return to pre-pandemic normal for vaccinated persons; being “unethical” for promoting relaxed restrictions on COVID-19-related restrictions; being “fatphobic” for arguing that eating doughnuts daily is not healthy.
Last week the Wall Street Journal bemoaned the cancellation of Wen and her removal from the upcoming APHA event in Boston, the largest public health conference in the world. “The erstwhile supporter of government Covid mandates is enduring the wrath of public-health activists for saying we need to learn to live with Covid,” the paper’s editorial board declared.
Yet while rational people of sound mind can agree about the ridiculousness of the charges leveled against Dr. Wen, there’s another lesson to be learned from this: she and other scientific “experts” who encouraged a culture of mass hysteria at the beginning of the pandemic have only themselves to blame when hysterical people use their own ridiculous rhetoric against them.
In an editorial published in The Washington Post this past August, Wen acknowledged that the “containment of covid-19” is “not reachable.” Though once deeply cautious, her family now visits with “other families indoors, without masks or testing, and have resumed traveling and attending events.”
Her children, who do indoor activities with other kids, will not be masking up this school year. She even admits that “masking has harmed our son’s language development” and that limiting her kids’ extracurriculars and social interactions negatively affected their childhood.
That’s quite an about-face for the medical professional who, in June of 2021, called for vaccine requirements. “But at some point … I think it will be important to say ‘Hey, you can opt-out, but if you want to opt-out, you have to sign these forms, you have to get twice-weekly testing,’” she wrote at the time.
In 2020, Wen also called on schools across the nation to close and stay closed through the entire winter.
Wen contributed to the mass hysteria of counterproductive masking and social distancing mandates, prolonged school closures that hurt millions of American schoolchildren, and unethical vaccine requirements that violated American citizens’ liberties.
For a time, she “favored maximizing restrictions and an authoritarian, punitive approach to anyone unvaccinated,” notes a Boston Globe op-ed. Her commentary regarding the coronavirus has been cited by the White House, the New York Times, and prominent international think tanks.
Wen’s opinion — and her initial authoritarian response to covid — was highly valued and respected by many prominent decision-makers. But now, she sings a different, less hysterical tune.
“I accept the risk that my kids will probably contract covid-19 this school year, just as they could contract the flu, respiratory syncytial virus, and other contagious diseases,” she wrote in the Post.
“Rather, my approach to this school year reflects the evolution of the pandemic and the acknowledgment that avoiding covid-19 cannot be the singular metric of people’s overall health and well-being.”
Wen admits there are “trade-offs” and that “there are no easy, one-size-fits-all answers.” In other words, Wen now agrees with what people were saying when covid first began to spread across the country.
The Hysteria Against Wen Is Her Own Creation
The letter calling for Wen to be banned from the APHA is signed by “epidemiologists, physicians, researchers, administrators, Ph.D. candidates, and postdoctoral researchers in public health, at Harvard, Yale, Brown, Johns Hopkins, UC Berkeley, and Emory, among other institutions,” The Boston Globe reported.
According to the petition, Wen’s statements are “antagonistic to and diminish the hard work of APHA members and colleagues who have had to deal with the fallout of her messaging, some of whom have experienced compounded harm from being disabled and/or immunocompromised.” Wen’s critics claim she has promoted “unscientific, unsafe, ableist, fatphobic, and unethical practices during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Anytime people start throwing around accusations of faux evils like ableism and fatphobia or demand speakers be explicitly “anti-racist,” you know you have entered the woke zone of victimhood and hysteria.
It’s unfortunate whenever anyone is subject to such ideological, irrational attacks. Yet Wen (and the many once hyper-restrictionist health experts and politicians who drastically changed their approach to covid) should not be surprised when they are on the receiving end of it.
Many Others to Blame
Of course, Wen is not the only representative of the nation’s elite who, after many months of pushing aggressive policies to “stop the spread” — a message that furthered their careers while ruining millions of others — is now singing a different tune.
For years, Wen, a former president of Planned Parenthood, sought to further her professional brand by pushing extreme medical procedures under the guise of protecting more Americans. Many knew then, and many more know now, that those measures were not only unnecessary but deeply counterproductive.
Wen and her similarly situated peers bred a beast that has now come for them. How many more will be devoured by ideological zealots who, two-and-a-half years later, are still social-distancing and wearing masks while they walk outside?
Casey Chalk is a senior contributor at The Federalist and an editor and columnist at The New Oxford Review. He has a bachelor’s in history and master’s in teaching from the University of Virginia and a master’s in theology from Christendom College. He is the author of The Persecuted: True Stories of Courageous Christians Living Their Faith in Muslim Lands.