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Jan. 23, 2021, 12:22 p.m. EST

A smiling Fauci calls reporting to Biden ‘liberating’ after ‘uncomfortable’ year with Trump

Fauci admits it was awkward contradicting Trump administration’s coronavirus claims that weren’t based on science

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By Nicole Lyn Pesce

Getty Images
A ‘liberated’ Dr. Anthony Fauci speaks Thursday at the White House.

Working for a new administration seems to have given Dr. Anthony Fauci a shot in the arm.

The head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases didn’t shy from sharing his pleasure to report to President Joe Biden on Thursday after a year of walking on eggshells around former President Donald Trump.

After being largely sidelined by the previous president for the past few months, Fauci was back to take questions from journalists during his first White House press briefing since Biden took office. And he even laughed and freely admitted he didn’t know whether the new president had spoken with Amazon /zigman2/quotes/210331248/composite AMZN -0.47%   prior to the tech giant’s announcement this week that it is ready to aid the new administration in getting more Americans vaccinated.

“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.”

His remark got a laugh from the press assembled in the White House briefing room on Thursday, but he wasn’t kidding.

When another reporter asked Fauci about “the jokes” he was making about working in this administration versus the previous one, he responded, “But you said I was joking about it, I was very serious about it. I wasn’t joking.”

Fauci said that he had felt “uncomfortable” hearing things that Trump had said about hydroxychloroquine, for example, that “were not based on scientific fact.”

And he seemed to confirm that he felt silenced by the previous administration.

“I can tell you, I take no pleasure at all being in a situation of contradicting the president,” he said. “You didn’t feel that you could actually say something, and there wouldn’t be any repercussion about it.”

He continued, “The idea that you can get up here and 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.”

Watch some of Fauci’s remarks here:

Fauci became a household name early in the pandemic after he was invited to speak at the White House’s daily press briefings on the rapidly spreading coronavirus.

But as Fauci increasingly found himself at odds with Trump about the worsening pandemic and the nation’s response to it, he largely disappeared from the White House’s public health briefings. One reporter on Thursday said Fauci had in effect been “banished” from the White House, and Fauci didn’t contradict him.

“The idea that you can get up here and 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.”

Many viewers remarked about how much happier and more at ease Fauci looked during this White House press briefing than he did during ones last year.

And Biden promised on Thursday that the country is going to be seeing plenty of Fauci in the weeks and months to come.

“You’re going to be hearing a lot more from Dr. Fauci again, not from the president but from the real, genuine experts and scientists,” Biden said while unveiling his administration’s 198-page plan for addressing the COVID-19 crisis and signing a series of executive orders, which includes a national vaccination campaign with an ambitious goal to administer 100 million vaccine doses in his first 100 days in office.

Read more: ‘We’re in a national emergency, and it’s time we treated it like one,’ Biden says as he signs more executive orders

And: Biden signs flurry of orders to tackle pandemic that has now cost more than 407,000 American lives

Fauci also addressed the board of the World Health Organization early Thursday to pledge that the U.S. is coming back to work with the health agency to support the international COVID-19 response; Trump began withdrawing the U.S. from WHO in September, after criticizing its response to the pandemic and accusing it of bowing to Chinese influence.

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