Ruh-roh . . . is Ashish Jha, the new White House COVID coordinator, a clown?

So says Martin Kulldorff:

It seems like Jha did call Kulldorff a clown.  (Kulldorff was an author of the Great Barrington Declaration and one of the “let it rip” clowns Jha refers to in the tweet Kulldorff shares.)

Calling someone a clown on twitter does not constitute bullying, but it is at least arguable that Jha should not have called Kulldorff a clown.  By the same token, however, Kulldorff should not be calling Jha a clown (actually, worse than a clown).

Putting aside the hurt feelings, the most important substantive charge Kulldorff makes is that Jha favored school closures.  If Jha supported school closures beyond the first few months of the pandemic this would certainly raise questions about Jha’s judgment.  It’s far from clear how much influence federal policymakers have on local school closures, but it seems like we should avoid giving a high-profile spot to someone who is likely to panic and urge schools to close every time cases tick up.

But . . . you knew this was coming, didn’t you?  It turns out that Jha was an advocate for reopening schools.  Here he is in November 2020 in edweek:

There’s no doubt in my mind that schools need to be bolder than they’re being. There is a large mental health cost to children. And we know this is going to very substantially widen the achievement gap between wealthier/white students and poorer/students of color. The effect is going to be felt for a very long time. You always have to weigh those very large costs against the cost of going back to in-person education. Obviously, if going back to in-person education was going to lead to a lot of infections and deaths, you’d say OK, that’s a cost we can’t bear. But districts that are being too cautious are doing enormous harm to children and families in their communities.

Another snippet:

I’m not saying schools should never close. They probably should at some point if things get really horrible. But the idea that schools should be the first casualty, before casinos, bars, and restaurants, in my mind defies logic.

Jha may have supported school closures earlier in the pandemic, I haven’t checked.  But it doesn’t matter. There is a huge difference between supporting school closures during the initial phase of the epidemic and being a person who “wrongly promoted school closures”, full stop.

I haven’t followed Jha and have no opinion on his fitness for his new job.  But Kulldorff’s tweet is a dishonest, deceptive smear.

Naturally, Donald Boudreaux shared this childish, misleading tweet without any fact checking.

(I would criticize Jha for the simplistic CA/FL comparison he uses to justify mask mandates and testing.  These comparisons tell us nothing.  It’s unfortunate that so many people used these comparisons opportunistically – on both sides of the debate.)