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A sign at the entrance to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on April 19, 2022, in Atlanta. (AP) A sign at the entrance to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on April 19, 2022, in Atlanta. (AP)

A sign at the entrance to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on April 19, 2022, in Atlanta. (AP)

Michael Majchrowicz
By Michael Majchrowicz September 13, 2022

Posts claim national monkeypox response coordinator is a ‘satanist.’ That’s False

If Your Time is short

  • Dr. Demetre Daskalakis is a Harvard-educated public health advocate and an expert in LGBTQ health issues whose career in medicine spans more than 20 years.

  • Daskalakis shared pictures of himself on Instagram wearing a leather harness in the design of a pentagram.

  • Daskalakis and the CDC said he is not a satanist.

Multiple social media posts are claiming President Joe Biden appointed a devil-worshiping "satanist" to help lead the nation’s response to the ongoing monkeypox outbreak.

In August, President Biden appointed Dr. Demetre Daskalakis as monkeypox response deputy coordinator. Daskalakis is a public health advocate and expert on health issues affecting the LGBTQ community.

Conservative commentators and news sites then published several photos of Daskalakis wearing a leather harness and various apparel displaying a pentacle symbol, as well as a tattoo he has bearing the same symbol. 

"Joe Biden appointed a Satanist to the White House," read one of the Facebook posts, published Sept. 8.

The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

Daskalakis confronted the allegation in a Sept. 9 interview with The Advocate, a magazine covering LGBTQ issues and news.

"I am certainly not a satanist," Daskalakis, who is openly gay, said in the interview. Asked by The Advocate why this charge seems to have surfaced, he said it was because he wears "high-fashion harnesses by Zana Bayne," a designer of leather goods.

A spokesperson for the CDC also confirmed in an email to PolitiFact that there is zero credence to this claim.

This claim appeared to gain traction after the Daily Caller, a conservative news site, published a Sept. 8 story drawing attention to the doctor’s personal Instagram page. Now set to private, the Instagram account included photos of Daskalakis in a leather harness that bears a pentacle, a five-point star surrounded by a circle.

The images featured in the story have since been published out of context elsewhere and across social media.

Featured Fact-check

They do not mean Daskalakis is a Satan worshiper.

The symbol, also sometimes called a pentagram, is often associated with magic and the occult. But the emblem has a long history and has been associated with numerous religions and nations throughout history.

Daskalakis is an accomplished public health advocate who has also helped guide the administration’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as offered guidance to both local and federal agencies to help curb the spread of HIV.

He holds a bachelor’s degree from Columbia University, a master of public health from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and an M.D. from New York University. He studied infectious diseases on a fellowship at Harvard and served as deputy commissioner for the Division of Disease Control at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. He is widely published and recognized as a leading voice in the LGBTQ community.

We reviewed articles about Daskalakis over the length of his career and did not find evidence that he is a satanist. But we did find a story in which he said once before that he is not.

In October 2014, the New York Post published a story about a boutique fitness hub, called Monster Cycle, that embraced a cheeky occult theme as part of its gimmick. Daskalakis was one of three founders, according to the article. 

 "We don’t worship the devil, we’re not Satan followers," one of Daskalakis’ business partners said at the time. "We’re just sort of taking that (edgy) energy and making it more positive."

Our ruling

A conservative news site said Daskalakis is a "satanist."

Daskalakis and the CDC have said he is not. We find no evidence to the contrary. 

We rate this claim False.

PolitiFact researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report.

Our Sources

Facebook post, Sept. 8, 2022

Email interview with CDC spokesman Paul Fulton, Jr., Sept. 13, 2022

The Advocate, "Why Are Conservatives Tearing Their Hair Out Over This Gay Doctor?" Sept. 9, 2022

Newsweek, "Biden Monkeypox Adviser Accused of Being 'Satanist' by Right-Wing Critics," Sept. 9, 2022

Merriam-Webster, "Pentagram Definition & Meaning," accessed Sept. 12, 2022

Ancient Symbols, "Pentacle Symbol," accessed Sept. 12, 2022

Britannica, "Church of Satan," accessed Sept. 12, 2022

New York Post, "Meet the fitness freaks who will have you burning (calories) in hell," Oct. 25, 2014

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Posts claim national monkeypox response coordinator is a ‘satanist.’ That’s False

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