Throughout its 208-year history, The New England Journal of Medicine has remained staunchly nonpartisan. The world’s most prestigious medical journal has never supported or condemned a political candidate.
In an editorial published on Wednesday, the journal said the Trump administration had responded so poorly to the coronavirus pandemic that it had “taken a crisis and turned it into a tragedy.”
The journal did not explicitly endorse former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic nominee, but that was the only possible inference, other scientists noted.
The N.E.J.M.’s editors join those of another influential journal, Scientific American, who last month endorsed Mr. Biden.
The political leadership has failed Americans in many ways that contrast vividly with responses from leaders in other countries, the editorial said.
In the United States, it said, there was too little testing for the virus, especially early on. There was too little protective equipment, and a lack of national leadership on important measures like mask wearing, social distancing, quarantine and isolation.
There were attempts to politicize and undermine the Food and Drug Administration, the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the journal noted.
As a result, the United States has had tens of thousands of “excess” deaths — those caused both directly and indirectly by the pandemic — as well as immense economic pain and an increase in social inequality as the virus hit disadvantaged communities hardest.
The editorial castigated the Trump administration’s rejection of science. “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 uncharacteristically pungent editorial called for change: “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.”
Scientific American, too, had never before endorsed a political candidate. “The pandemic would strain any nation and system, but Trump’s rejection of evidence and public health measures have been catastrophic,” the journal’s editors said.