Jay Bhattacharya Drives Home Value Of Free Speech While Accepting Bradley Foundation Prize

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Dr. Jay Bhattacharya emphasized the critical importance of free speech in science on Tuesday evening while accepting the 2024 Bradley Prize, an award given by the Bradley Foundation to those who embody and further the spirit of American exceptionalism.

Bhattacharya — an accomplished professor of medicine, economics and health policy research at Stanford University — is well-known for pushing back against extreme public health measures, such as lockdowns, during the COVID-19 pandemic. Bhattacharya’s stance that invited massive criticism from his colleagues and many in the press at the time. The Bradley Foundation recognized his commitment to freedom, intellectual rigor and courage he demonstrated in sticking to his principles by awarding him the Bradley Prize.

“Maybe the most perplexing sin of the public health establishment during the pandemic is that it abandoned an essential commitment to science,” Bhattacharya said during his acceptance remarks. “The key to understanding this is that during the COVID era, governments worldwide, including — and I’m deeply sorry to say this — including the United States, violated the free speech rights of citizens and scientists to create an illusion of consensus in favor of lockdowns.”

“Science works when scientists can freely discuss ideas and correct each other. This is especially important for science at the frontier of knowledge, for instance when there’s a new virus spreading around the world,” he continued. “Instead, scientists who harbored dissident thoughts during COVID faced tremendous pressure to stay silent.” (RELATED: These Bradley Prize Winners Are True Examples Of American Exceptionalism)

Dr. Jay Bhattacharya speaks while accepting the 2024 Bradley Prize presented by the Bradley Foundation. (Photo via Nick Pope / Daily Caller News Foundation)

Bhattacharya was one of the three original authors of the Great Barrington Declaration, signed in October 2020. The declaration called for policymakers and healthcare professionals to pursue a strategy of “focused protection” to fight the pandemic, which would have oriented the response to the pandemic around protecting the elderly and those with pre-existing health problems while allowing the rest of the population to live normally.

One-size-fits-all policies, such as school closures and lockdowns, pursued by policymakers in the U.S. and elsewhere were creating “damaging physical and mental health impacts,” Bhattacharya and his co-authors argued at the time. Bhattacharya’s views and his growing public profile subjected him to considerable criticism from other academics, as well as government officials including then-National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Francis Collins and then-National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci.

Bhattacharya also explained that the U.S. government pressured social media companies to censor him online for his views on the U.S. pandemic response policy, and that he was placed on a “blacklist” at Twitter under its old management.

“Many powerful scientific bureaucrats justified these policies with the idea that all scientists agreed that the lockdowns would work to suppress, or even eliminate, the virus, but this was known false, even as early as spring 2020,” Bhattacharya said during his acceptance speech. “In the early days of the pandemic, there was a false dichotomy between the economy and health, but it turns out that harming the economies of the world and the United States harms the health, especially of the most vulnerable.”

Bhattacharya added that he will be donating the $250,000 stipend that comes with the Bradley Prize to Collateral Global, an organization he established specifically to document the collateral damage of lockdown policies and to ensure that policy mistakes made during the coronavirus pandemic are not repeated in the future.

Bradley Foundation President and CEO Richard Graber had high praise for Bhattacharya during an interview with the Daily Caller News Foundation.

“He’s very, very accomplished in medicine and economics and health research, but it really was the pandemic that, probably somewhat unexpectedly to him, made him a champion for free speech, free speech in the context of science,” Graber told the DCNF. “Scientists should debate. They should disagree, all in an effort to get to the right answer, and he saw something that was going terribly wrong with COVID-19 and how to treat it. And in the face of enormous pressure, which continues to this day, he took a different position, and many tried to shut him down, including people within the United States government. He said ‘No,’ and that takes courage.”

Dr. Samuel Gregg — the Friedrich Hayek Chair in Economics and Economic History at the American Institute for Economic Research — also received a Bradley Prize for his work defending economic freedom, free markets and limited government. The Bradley Foundation also recognized Dr. William Barclay Allen, emeritus dean of James Madison College and a political science professor at Michigan State University, for his strong scholarship on the American founders and their ideals.

This year’s awardees were selected from a pool of more than 60 contenders, according to the Bradley Foundation. Former winners include ex-Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, the late columnist Charles Krauthammer, and Victor Davis Hanson, a leading conservative author and historian.

The Bradley Foundation as it exists today was established in 1985 with a mission to preserve and promote the vision of Lynde and Harry Bradley, two brothers from Milwaukee who had successful business careers and a firm appreciation for individual liberty, economic freedom and America’s exceptionalism, Graber told the DCNF.

“These brothers cared deeply about this country, and they cared a lot about their community. They believed in free enterprise, they are examples of what can happen when free enterprise is allowed to thrive. They believed in a strong civil society,” Graber told the DCNF. “They believed that it is not government that is often best situated to solve problems, but people helping people, volunteer organizations, neighborhood schools. They believed in strong, informed citizens, and they believed in our constitutional order, federalism, separation of powers and individual liberties. Each of the winners, in different ways, this year and every year, reflect those values.”

The Bradley Foundation has contributed to the Daily Caller News Foundation.

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