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Coronavirus

Fauci Relishes A 'Hallelujah' Moment

Dr. Anthony Fauci laughs while speaking at a White House briefing on Thursday. Fauci, President Biden's chief medical adviser on COVID-19, says he rejoiced when the new president declared that "science and truth" would guide the nation's policies toward the pandemic.
Dr. Anthony Fauci laughs while speaking at a White House briefing on Thursday. Fauci, President Biden's chief medical adviser on COVID-19, says he rejoiced when the new president declared that "science and truth" would guide the nation's policies toward the pandemic.

Dr. Anthony Fauci says letting the science speak on the pandemic got him "into a little bit of trouble" during the Trump administration. President Donald Trump had called the nation's top infectious disease expert part of a group of "idiots" and a "disaster" and suggested that he might fire Fauci after the election, which Trump ended up losing.

So, Fauci, President Biden's chief medical adviser on COVID-19, says he rejoiced when the new president declared that "science and truth" would guide the nation's policies on the pandemic.

"I said, 'Hallelujah,' you know?" Fauci told NPR's Mary Louise Kelly on Friday.

"That's a very liberating feeling, where people don't have to be worried about when you're saying something that you're going to get pushback from your own team," he says. "There never will be pushback on scientific data. The president himself has told us that he wants nothing but the truth based on science and good evidence."

Fauci, 80, who was appointed director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in 1984, said that he felt free to talk about the science of the disease under Trump, but others didn't.

"I said exactly what the science spoke in the last administration," Fauci said. "It got me into a little bit of trouble — not really trouble because it didn't bother me.

"But it did get a bit of pushback from people in the White House, including the president. When I spoke — and I didn't change anything I would have done — I have always spoken according to what the scientific data and the scientific evidence allowed me to say. But that wasn't always the case for everybody else."

It was a big comeback week for Fauci, who had become noticeably absent from White House briefings after publicly contradicting Trump.

In addition to White House briefings, Fauci revealed Friday that he had been blocked from going on The Rachel Maddow Show for months, despite him wanting to appear and the show requesting him. The Trump administration "didn't like the way you handle things and they didn't want me on there," Fauci told Maddow.

The White House had blocked Fauci from appearing on various television shows throughout the past year.

Fauci told Maddow the Biden administration would not have a "deliberate holding back of good people when the press asks for them."

At a White House briefing on Thursday — his first under Biden — Fauci said that under 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."

And earlier that day, Fauci said he was "honored" to announce that the United States would remain a member of the World Health Organization. That was a reversal of Trump's move to leave the United Nations health agency. Trump had complained about the organization's moves early in the pandemic and accused the WHO of bowing to pressure from China.

NPR's James Doubek contributed to this article.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.