White House health advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said he took "no pleasure" in contradicting former President Donald Trump on the Covid-19 pandemic and feels more liberated being able to discuss the science without facing backlash from the new administration.
"The idea that you can get up here and you can talk about what you know, what evidence, what the science is, and know that's it – let the science speak. It is somewhat of a liberating feeling," Fauci said Thursday in his first White House press briefing in months.
Fauci, who's now advising President Joe Biden, said he took no pleasure in contradicting Trump, who often made false claims about the severity of the pandemic as well as drugs being developed to fight it.
"It was very clear that there were things that were said, be it regarding things like hydroxychloroquine and other things like that, that really [were] uncomfortable because they were not based on scientific fact," Fauci said. "I can tell you, 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."
He said it's "somewhat of a liberating feeling" to talk about science and "that's it."
Throughout the pandemic, Trump repeatedly criticized the government's top coronavirus advisor and even suggested firing him. Meanwhile, Fauci has taken issue with a number of Trump's comments, including his repeated assertions that the U.S. fight against the virus was "rounding the turn" when in fact tens of thousands of people were being infected daily.
Fauci took a not-so-subtle dig at his former boss, when he was asked how the pandemic might have played out differently if a team like Biden's had been in place from the very start. "One of the things that we're going to do is to be completely transparent, open and honest," Fauci said. "If things go wrong, not point fingers, but to correct them and to make everything we do be based on science and evidence."
Fauci said he had discussed those very priorities with Biden about 15 minutes before he entered the briefing room.
Trump, in contrast, had consistently downplayed the threat of the virus. He regularly disputed any criticism of his administration's approach to the pandemic and asserted that the U.S., which holds the highest Covid death toll of any country in the world, had responded to the virus better than nearly any other nation. While Fauci and Trump's coronavirus task force held daily briefings near the start of the outbreak, those regular updates were eventually scrapped after Trump asked scientists if they could inject disinfectants or light in the body to kill the virus.
The press briefing Thursday came after Fauci told the World Health Organization earlier in the day that the U.S. would remain a member of the international agency under Biden. In May, Trump announced that the U.S. would withdraw from the WHO, but the process wasn't expected to be finalized until this July.
Fauci said the Biden administration planned to work with the other 193 member states to help "strengthen and reform" the United Nations' health agency.