Zeynep Tufekci’s Unseemly Collusion With Cochrane Officials to Attack Scientists Is Falling Apart
As scientists revolt against Cochrane, Tufekci continues harassing researchers on Twitter.
5 minute read
It’s been a bad couple of weeks for Zeynep Tufekci, Princeton’s social media influencer, who colluded with Cochrane officials to attack scientists who concluded masks don’t stop COVID transmission—research results that ran afoul of White House advice and trod upon pandemic policies promoted by Tufekci. Her fellow mask promoter, Anthony Fauci, got shot down this week when CNN’s Michael Smerconish confronted him with Cochrane’s review that found little evidence supporting mask use.
Cochrane’s review has long been a target for Tufekci and other mask cheerleaders, but when forced to deal with the review’s evidence on CNN, Fauci backed down.
Quoting the Cochrane review’s lead author Tom Jefferson, Smerconish noted that Fauci and others “were convinced by nonrandomomized studies, flawed observational studies.” In an error-riddled New York Times essay last March, Tufekci excoriated Jefferson for daring to publish this research—all without disclosing that she has a long track record of lobbying federal agencies for mask mandates.
Despite Tufekci’s assault on science and Jefferson, the Cochrane mask review persists in tripping up officials like Fauci and continues to embarrass Tufekci. After reporter Greg Piper sent Tufekci a slew of questions about her questionable New York Times essay attacking Jefferson, and her numerous tweets attacking me, Tufekci had to defend her reputation.
You can read Piper’s article on Tufekci’s defense of herself here: NYT columnist denies pressuring scientists behind study that found masks make little difference. Tufekci doesn’t come off that well in the eyes of reporters or scientists. As I told Piper about Tufekci:
Anyone can take a look at her academic publishing record and see much of it consists of essays in news outlets. She publishes little to no original research and much of what she authors in academic journals are opinion pieces.
In my own communication with Cochrane scientists, they find Tufekci’s behavior boorish and unprofessional. In retrospect, it’s clear that Tufekci colluded with Cochrane’s Soares-Weiser, who runs the organization, but was not involved in the mask review. After the two canoodled earlier this year, Soares-Weiser rushed out a public statement to please Tufekci and New York Times editors, but has had to hire the pricey consulting firm Envoy to deal with the fallout and scientists’ concerns over her leadership style.
Scientists have demanded that Soares-Weiser explain why she talked to Tufekci about their review, and published a statement criticizing it, without first consulting them. This would be like the New York Times publishing a major months-long investigation by a group of reporters, who were then undermined by the Times publisher who released a statement because he didn’t like what the reporters dug up.
At the time that Tufekci published her essay, Jefferson sent her editors a letter pointing out numerous errors. The paper chose to ignore this. But Jefferson set the record straight yesterday during an interview with Michael Smerconish, who hosted Jefferson on his radio program. Jefferson pointed out in the interview that powerful people in public health, like Anthony Fauci, could have ended all the controversy over mask use by funding large studies to draw more conclusive results on masks.
“The whole story of the pandemic, since 2020, is that nobody (or very few people) have stepped forward and filled that gap,” Jefferson said. Institutions in the United States are now starting to implement mask policies, Jefferson noted, without offering any proof to people that they work. “How are they going to justify this?”
Meanwhile, Tufekci has moved on to haranguing Monica Gandhi, a professor of medicine and expert on infectious diseases at UCSF. When Gandhi tweeted out a new study showing that most patients spread COVID when they are symptomatic, Tufekci hijacked Gandhi’s explanation with cherry-picked numbers to insert herself into the discussion.
Of course, Zeynep Tufekci has no training in infectious diseases or epidemiology, but she does enjoy playing research physician on Twitter.
For her part, Cochrane’s Karla Soares-Weiser continues to struggle with questions about her role in undermining the scientists’ review and questions about how much she is paying Envoy to clean up the mess she caused. Jefferson didn’t respond to Piper’s questions about Envoy, and Envoy refused to reply to Piper’s questions about their contract with Karla Soares-Weiser.
Meanwhile, Cochrane Spokesperson Harry Dayantis told Piper he didn’t know anything about Envoy. This is obviously a fiction. When Soares-Weiser was forced to hire Envoy this last summer, she sent an internal email to Cochrane scientists announcing that she had retained the firm. And Dayantis is on the email.
It’s obviously embarrassing to Cochrane that they are now spending money on a consulting firm to clean up the mess Soares-Weiser created with review scientists. Her actions have even caught the attention of Johns Hopkins researcher Marty Makary, who tweeted that Cochrane is now caving to political pressure from partisans who want the science to conclude that masks work.
Unfortunately, that’s not how science works.
“We could find no evidence that masks make a difference,” Jefferson told Smerconish, during yesterday’s radio interview. If you want to listen to Jefferson and Smerconish discuss mask policies and science at greater length, click here.
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