freed fauci
January 25, 2021

Former President Donald Trump first met Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, at a September 2019 photo op, the newly "liberated" Fauci told The New York Times in an interview published Sunday. Until the COVID-19 pandemic hit four months later, "he barely knew who I was," Fauci said. But once he started going to the White House "very, very frequently" to advise about the pandemic, things started going wrong between him and Trump almost immediately.

The first problem is that Trump would get ideas about the coronavirus and how to treat it from friends and acquaintances, and he would believe their evidence-free opinions, Fauci said. "It was always, 'A guy called me up, a friend of mine from blah, blah, blah.' That's when my anxiety started to escalate." Fauci said he felt obliged to speak the truth publicly after Trump said something false or misleading, and while he would get pushback from Trump's top aides for contradicting the president, Trump himself never confronted him or got angry.

Fauci said he never really believed Trump would try to fire him, and he never considered quitting. He explained why:

Someone's got to not be afraid to speak out the truth. They would try to play down real problems and have a little happy talk about how things are okay. And I would always say, "Wait a minute, hold it folks, this is serious business." So there was a joke — a friendly joke, you know — that I was the skunk at the picnic. ... I always felt that if I did walk away, the skunk at the picnic would no longer be at the picnic. Even if I wasn't very effective in changing everybody's minds, the idea that they knew that nonsense could not be spouted without my pushing back on it, I felt was important. [Dr. Anthony Fauci to The New York Times]

Read more about Fauci's experience working with Trump and his team during a once-in-a-century pandemic, including the serious death threats he and his family received, at The New York Times. Peter Weber

January 21, 2021

Dr. Anthony Fauci admitted on Thursday to sometimes feeling "uncomfortable" during the Trump administration and described the ability to now speak honestly and openly as "liberating."

Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert and President Biden's chief medical adviser, made the comments during his first White House press briefing under Biden. He also promised the new administration will make all of its decisions "based on science and evidence," while noting he "got in trouble sometimes" for his honesty under former President Donald Trump.

Asked directly if he feels "less constrained" under Biden than he did under Trump, Fauci acknowledged a change.

"I take no pleasure at all in being in a situation of contradicting the president, so it was really something that you didn't feel that you could actually say something and there wouldn't be any repercussions about it," Fauci said. "The idea that you can get up here and talk about what you know, what the science is, and know that's it, let the science speak, it is somewhat of a liberating feeling."

Fauci was known to contradict Trump's rosier or scientifically baseless comments about the COVID-19 pandemic, drawing the president's ire. Trump once attacked Fauci as an idiot and also floated the idea of firing him after the election. At Thursday's briefing, Fauci told reporters he felt "uncomfortable" by "things that were said" under Trump that were "not based on scientific fact," and he also pointed to another difference between the old and new administration.

"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."

Later, when a reporter noted that Fauci had "joked" a few times about the differences in two administrations, Fauci laughed and shot back, "I was very serious about it. I wasn't joking." Brendan Morrow

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