Fauci says it’s ‘a liberating feeling’ to work for Biden instead of Trump, who made claims ‘not based on scientific fact’

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Fauci talks to reporters as he arrives for a COVID-19 response event with U.S. President Biden at the White House in Washington. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
  • Dr. Anthony Fauci on Thursday expressed relief that he’s no longer answering to Trump.
  • Fauci said Biden has urged him to be “completely transparent, open, and honest” about the pandemic.
  • He called it “a liberating feeling” to “let the science speak” and not fear retribution from the president.
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Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, on Thursday expressed relief that he’s no longer answering to President Donald Trump, who he said made statements about the pandemic that “were not based on scientific fact.”

Fauci made several remarks about the difference between working under Trump and newly sworn-in President Joe Biden during a White House press briefing, calling it “somewhat of a liberating feeling” to work for the new administration.

“The idea that you can get up here and talk about what you know, what the evidence — what the science is, and know that’s it, let the science speak, it is somewhat of a liberating feeling,” he told reporters of working under Biden.

Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and now Biden’s chief medical adviser, said he “got in trouble sometimes” with Trump for telling the truth about the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It was very clear that there were things that were said, be it regarding things like hydroxychloroquine and other things like that, that really was uncomfortable because they were not based on scientific fact,” he said. “I take no pleasure at all in being in a situation of contradicting the president.”

He also suggested that Trump administration officials were encouraged to make claims they didn’t know to be true.

“One of the new things in this administration is, if you don’t know the answer, don’t guess,” he said. “Just say you don’t know the answer.”

Fauci delivered an update on the status of infections in the US, an assessment of the mutant COVID-19 strains in the UK, Brazil, and South Africa, and answered a series of questions about the vaccine rollout. He said that if the US is able to vaccinate 70% to 85% of its population by the summer, the country could reach “some degree of normality” by the fall. But, he added, achieving that level of vaccination will require reaching out to many Americans who are sceptical of the vaccine.

Fauci said that Biden has repeatedly assured him that the new administration will be “completely transparent, open, and honest” about the pandemic and the government’s response to it and “if things go wrong, not point fingers, but correct them.”

Earlier on Thursday, Biden promised the public would hear more from health officials and scientists than they did under Trump and that his COVID-19 response would be governed by science.

“You’re going to be hearing a lot more from Dr. Fauci again, not from the president, but from the real genuine experts and scientists,” he said. “We’re going to make sure they work free from political interference.”

When a reporter pointed out that Fauci had “joked a couple of times today” about how different it feels to work for the Biden as opposed to Trump, he replied: “You said I was joking about it; I was very serious about it. I wasn’t joking!”

As of Thursday, the US is grappling with the worst coronavirus outbreak in the world. More than 24.5 million Americans have tested positive for COVID-19 while 408,000-plus people have died of the disease, based on data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.