WASHINGTON — A visibly upbeat Dr. Anthony Fauci said Thursday he felt liberated to be able to stick to science without fear of repercussion now that former president Donald Trump is out of office.
Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, drew a strong distinction between working for President Joe Biden and for Trump, who pushed a string of unproven COVID-19 cures, including sunlight, bleach, and the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine.
“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 about his former boss.
“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.”
Fauci, who could at times be seen wincing or running his hands over his face in the background as Trump made unscientific claims, described being able to “let the science speak” as “somewhat of a liberating feeling.” He insisted he never personally made any statements that veered from the evidence. “That’s why I got in trouble sometimes,” he said.
The working relationship between Trump and Fauci was mostly a car crash of dysfunction as the president alternately shunned, mocked, and attacked the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. At one point, White House staffers drafted talking points attacking Fauci’s credibility. He became a villain in right-wing media circles and among conspiracy theorists after publicly disagreeing with the president’s statements.
Trump flouted mask guidelines even after contracting COVID himself and being hospitalized. During his election campaign, Trump hinted to a crowd of supporters chanting “fire Fauci!” that he may do just that if were reelected.
Fauci, clearly in high spirits Thursday, made several references to how different things are now that Trump is gone. “One of the new things in this administration is if you don’t know the answer, don’t guess, just say you don’t know the answer,” he said at one point. Asked if he felt like he was back, Fauci said, “I think so.”
But Fauci did have some kind words for the former administration. When asked if Biden was starting from scratch on the vaccination effort, Fauci said there were good ideas under the Trump administration that will still be used.
He also called Biden’s goal of vaccinating 100 million people in the US over the first 100 days of the new administration a “quite a reasonable goal.” Fauci, who got the second dose of the Moderna coronavirus vaccine earlier this week, said that if somewhere between 70% and 85% of the US population is vaccinated by the end of the summer, everyday life in America will start to approach something close to normal in the fall.
“I believe by the time we get to the fall we will be approaching a degree of normality. It’s not going to be perfectly normal, but one that I think will take a lot of pressure off the American public,” Fauci said.