The White House’s top adviser on Covid-19 has said he feels liberated now that Donald Trump has left office – because now he can finally tell Americans the truth about the virus.
In extraordinary remarks to reporters at a briefing on the virus, Anthony Fauci said that President Joe Biden’s administration would be “completely transparent, open and honest” with the public rather than “point fingers”, like his predecessor.
Dr Fauci, who often clashed publicly with Mr Trump, also said he felt “really uncomfortable” about things said by the White House as it dealt with the virus that has now killed more than 400,000 Americans, including announcements on hydroxychloroquine – and he said he feared “repercussions” from Mr Trump if he misspoke.
Speaking at his first White House briefing as President Biden’s top Covid adviser, Dr Fauci was asked to compare his experience under the previous administration to the new one. The 80-year-old initially said he wasn’t sure he could “extrapolate” based on first impressions.
But then he said: “One of the things that was very clear as recently as about 15 minutes ago, when I was with the president, is that one of the things that we’re going to do is to be completely transparent, open and honest.
“If things go wrong, not point fingers but to correct them and to make everything we do be based on science and evidence.”
Dr Fauci was asked by another reporter to expand on his “jokes” about the differences in approaches between the two leaders.
Laughing, he said: “I was very serious about it, I wasn’t joking.”
“Obviously I don’t want to be going back over history, but 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.”
Dr Fauci added that he took no pleasure in having to contradict the president and said he was relieved he could now stick to the science.
“It was really something that you didn’t feel that you could actually say something, and there wouldn’t be any repercussions about it,” said Dr Fauci, whom Mr Trump had publicly threatened to sack.
“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.”
Dr Fauci’s public statements brought him into conflict with Mr Trump, who repeatedly declared premature victory over the virus, refused to wear a mask, denied the need for lockdowns, and pushed unfounded miracle cures.
Mr Trump once referred to Dr Fauci as a “disaster”, criticised his TV appearances and even mocked his opening pitch for Washington DC’s baseball team.