WASHINGTON – The nation’s top infectious disease expert says he is feeling somewhat liberated working for newly-sworn-in President Joe Biden’s administration after having served under former President Donald Trump’s.
During a news briefing at the White House Thursday, Dr. Anthony Fauci -- director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and chief medical advisor to the president -- responded to questions about how he feels working under Biden compared to Trump.
“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,” Fauci said, alluding to false statements Trump previously made about COVID-19 therapies and alleged cures. “I take no pleasure at all in being in a situation of contradicting the president ... you didn’t feel that you could actually say something, and there wouldn’t be any repercussions about it.
“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,” Fauci added.
Dr. Fauci asked about difference between Trump and Biden administrations:— NBC News (@NBCNews) January 21, 2021
"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." pic.twitter.com/SAMZaGwDSt
Fauci’s participation in the news briefing Thursday signaled his “return” after being essentially banished by Trump and his administration for weeks.
Though the doctor never really went anywhere, his media appearances were tightly controlled -- and largely blocked -- by the Trump administration after Fauci became a household name due to positive press from his participation in coronavirus news briefings. Then-President Trump reportedly grew jealous of Fauci and resentful of the doctor’s willingness to contradict him.
Throughout the pandemic, Trump constantly undermined Fauci’s credibility, falsely insisting that the pandemic was nearly over. As his handling of the pandemic became the defining issue in the 2020 campaign, Trump insisted on portraying the virus as a thing of the past. He also mercilessly attacked Fauci, retweeting messages that called for the doctor’s dismissal and reveled in “Fire Fauci!” chants at some of his rallies.
Now under the Biden administration, Fauci is in full view of the public, feeling like he can speak freely and openly about the science surrounding the coronavirus pandemic. During the White House briefing Thursday, the doctor said a cornerstone of the new administration is to prioritize transparency and honesty when communicating information to the public.
“One of the new things in this administration is, If you don’t know the answer, don’t guess,” Fauci said. “Just say you don’t know the answer.”
With a burst of executive orders, President Joe Biden served notice Thursday that America’s war on COVID-19 is under new command, promising an anxious nation progress to reduce infections and lift the siege it has endured for nearly a year.
At the same time, he tried to manage expectations in his second day in office, saying despite the best intentions “we’re going to face setbacks.” He brushed off a reporter’s question on whether his goal of 100 million coronavirus shots in 100 days should be more ambitious, a point pressed by some public health experts.
The 10 orders signed by Biden are aimed at jump starting his national COVID-19 strategy to increase vaccinations and testing, lay the groundwork for reopening schools and businesses, and immediately increase the use of masks — including a requirement that Americans mask up for travel. One directive calls for addressing health care inequities in minority communities hard hit by the virus.
“We didn’t get into this mess overnight, and it will take months to turn this around,” Biden said at the White House. U.S. deaths have have surged past 400,000, and he noted projections that they could reach 500,000 in a month.
But then, looking directly into the TV camera, Biden declared: “To a nation waiting for action, let me be clear on this point: Help is on the way.”