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Fauci describes 'chilling' pressure on scientists in Trump era

Anthony FauciAnthony FauciNoem touts South Dakota coronavirus response, knocks lockdowns in CPAC speech Sunday shows preview: 2024 hopefuls gather at CPAC; House passes coronavirus relief; vaccine effort continues Underfunding classics and humanities is dangerous MORE, the federal government’s leading infectious disease expert, said it was “chilling” to see the pressure put on scientists during the Trump administration by officials seeking to project rosy messaging about the coronavirus.

Fauci recounted on “The Rachel MaddowRachel Anne MaddowTim Ryan: Prosecutors reviewing video of Capitol tours given by lawmakers before riot League of Conservation Voters adds racial justice issues to 2020 congressional scorecard Newly released footage shows Schumer's 'near miss' with Capitol rioters MORE Show” on Friday night that officials under former President TrumpDonald TrumpNoem touts South Dakota coronavirus response, knocks lockdowns in CPAC speech On The Trail: Cuomo and Newsom — a story of two embattled governors McCarthy: 'I would bet my house' GOP takes back lower chamber in 2022 MORE pressed government scientists in what he said was an unusual dynamic compared with his work under past administrations, describing "a situation where science was distorted and/or rejected."

“I didn’t want to be at odds with the president because I have a lot of respect for the office of the presidency, but there was conflict at different levels with different people and different organizations and a lot of pressure being put on to do things that just are not compatible with the science,” he said.

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“It’s a real aberrancy,” he later added. “This is my seventh administration, Rachel, and I’ve been advising administrations and presidents on both sides of the aisle, Republicans and Democrats, people with different ideologies, and even with differences in ideology, there never was this real affront on science. So it really was an aberrancy that I haven’t seen in almost 40 years that I’ve been doing this. So it’s just one of those things that is chilling when you see it happen."

The remarks are just the latest from Fauci indicating his relief to be working under President BidenJoe BidenNoem touts South Dakota coronavirus response, knocks lockdowns in CPAC speech On The Trail: Cuomo and Newsom — a story of two embattled governors Biden celebrates vaccine approval but warns 'current improvement could reverse' MORE.

The public health expert became an early face of the Trump administration’s response to the pandemic, but he was eventually pushed out of the spotlight after adopting stances that ran afoul of the White House’s messaging that the virus would “disappear.”

“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 you could actually say something and there wouldn’t be any repercussions about it,” Fauci said at a press briefing this week.

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

Fauci said despite conflicts that agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) faced with the Trump White House, many officials resisted pressure applied to them.

“People were influenced, unfortunately. But I’ve got to tell you, at the same time that some might have been, a lot of people weren’t,” he said. “There were a lot of people in the CDC and the FDA who were really suffering under that.”