Scientific American has been in circulation since Abraham Lincoln was a humble lawyer in Springfield, Ill. But the magazine had not formally endorsed a presidential candidate until Tuesday, when it urged its readers to vote for Joseph R. Biden Jr. in a scathing editorial that condemned President Trump’s handling of the coronavirus and other science-related issues.
“The pandemic would strain any nation and system, but Trump’s rejection of evidence and public health measures have been catastrophic,” the editorial said, pointing to the president’s misleading statements downplaying the virus’s severity, his early disparagement of mask-wearing, his chastising of governors who declined to reopen businesses in their states and his administration’s well-documented testing failures.
“At every stage, Trump has rejected the unmistakable lesson that controlling the disease, not downplaying it, is the path to economic reopening and recovery,” added the editorial, which was bylined by the magazine’s editors and primarily written by Josh Fischman, a senior editor.
The editorial also criticized other actions taken by the Trump administration, such as repeatedly trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act without submitting an alternative, eliminating regulations designed to protect the environment and proposing drastic cuts in scientific research. It appears in the October issue, which went online Tuesday and will hit subscribers’ mailboxes this week.
The editorial also made an affirmative case for Mr. Trump’s opponent. “Joe Biden, in contrast, comes prepared with plans to control Covid-19, improve health care, reduce carbon emissions and restore the role of legitimate science in policy making,” it said.
Scientific American, founded in 1845 and published by Springer Nature, has opined on political matters before. In the 1950s, the magazine was an outspoken opponent of the hydrogen bomb, prompting the Atomic Energy Commission to censor one issue (and burn 3,000 copies of it). In the 2000s, the editors waded into the stem-cell research debate. And in 2016, they warned of Mr. Trump’s “disregard, if not outright contempt,” for science in an editorial that nonetheless stopped short of explicitly endorsing his opponent, Hillary Clinton.
As the magazine’s editors discussed its election coverage earlier this summer, they determined that the endorsement was necessary, said Laura Helmuth, who became editor in chief in March.
“He’s been so much worse than we warned,” Ms. Helmuth said of Mr. Trump in an interview. “The evidence was there already that he rejected expertise, that he embraced conspiracy theories, that he wasn’t interested in getting the right answers — just interested in projecting his own ideas. And then his administration has been just a disaster for science at every level.
“We could have gone on for pages and pages and pages,” she added.
Ms. Helmuth said the editors strove to make the editorial about President Trump rather than partisanship.
“We never use the world ‘Republican’ or ‘Democrat,’” she said. “We think and hope there are many who voted Republican in the past who this time will reject Trump.”