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Dr. Anthony Fauci admitted on Thursday to sometimes feeling “uncomfortable” during the Trump administration and described the ability to now speak honestly and openly as “liberating.”

Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert and President Biden’s chief medical adviser, made the comments during his first White House press briefing under Biden. He also promised the new administration will make all of its decisions “based on science and evidence,” while noting he “got in trouble sometimes” for his honesty under former President Donald Trump.

Asked directly if he feels “less constrained” under Biden than he did under Trump, Fauci acknowledged a change.

“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 said. “The idea that you can get up here and talk about what you know, what the science is, and know that’s it, let the science speak, it is somewhat of a liberating feeling.”

Fauci was known to contradict Trump’s rosier or scientifically baseless comments about the COVID-19 pandemic, drawing the president’s ire. Trump once attacked Fauci as an idiot and also floated the idea of firing him after the election. At Thursday’s briefing, Fauci told reporters he felt “uncomfortable” by “things that were said” under Trump that were “not based on scientific fact,” and he also pointed to another difference between the old and new administration.

“One of the new things in this administration is if you don’t know the answer, don’t guess,” Fauci said. “Just say you don’t know the answer.”

Later, when a reporter noted that Fauci had “joked” a few times about the differences in two administrations, Fauci laughed and shot back, “I was very serious about it. I wasn’t joking.” Brendan Morrow

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