Sunday, 14 April, 2024
HomeNews UpdateUJ defends awarding doctorate to COVID denialist

UJ defends awarding doctorate to COVID denialist

The University of Johannesburg (UJ) has defended its decision to confer an honorary doctorate on Professor Michael Levitt, who, at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, was a COVID-19 denialist and even claimed that the virus would end in August 2020.

In response to City Press, the university’s spokesperson, Herman Esterhuizen, defended Levitt, saying he had simply worked on data “with the goal of producing accurate and unbiased models linked to COVID-19 death figures”.

This is even though a simple Google search of Levitt’s name brings up all the false claims he made about COVID-19 deaths and his denialism of the virus.

Esterhuizen said “Levitt is not, nor has he ever been, a COVID-19 denialist”.

Levitt, who was a 2013 Nobel prize laureate in chemistry, was one of six people, including Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, on whom the university conferred honorary doctorates during its summer graduation.

Esterhuizen said the UK had nominated him for an honorary doctorate in 2019 “for his work in modelling complex systems” but the degree could be awarded only this year because of COVID-19 restrictions. Levitt was also vehemently anti-lockdown.

Not only did critics lambast Levitt, a Stanford University professor of biophysics, for his messaging about the virus, but they criticised the authoritative way he spoke about COVID-19 after he’d admitted to not being an epidemiologist.

In February 2020, talking to China Daily, Levitt said that country was “winning the war” against the virus and predicted that it would only have 200 COVID-19 deaths. He said: “Contrary to the prevailing world hysteria, the epidemic’s almost all over in China.”

He also predicted that Israel would have no more than 10 COVID-19 deaths – the country has actually recorded more than 11 700 such deaths to date.

Esterhuizen told City Press that Levitt had “admitted to having made mistakes in his earlier analysis”.


News24 article – UJ defends doctorate for Covid denialist (Open access)


See more from MedicalBrief archives:


COVID-19 pandemic could be shorter than expected – contrarian view from Nobel laureate


Evidence shows that lockdown was a ‘reckless’ experiment


COVID-19 pandemic is the deadliest event in US history


Brazil’s government in denial over COVID-19 catastrophe


Israel delivers the world’s fastest COVID vaccination inoculation drive




MedicalBrief — our free weekly e-newsletter

We'd appreciate as much information as possible, however only an email address is required.