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Retiring NIH director Dr. Francis Collins faced off with Trump over refusing to endorse disproven COVID treatments

Dr. Francis Collins has spent 12 years as director of the National Institutes of Health – one of the longest-serving in its history. He's stepping away from the job at year's end. However, in a new interview with correspondent Rita Braver for "CBS Sunday Morning," Collins said he was willing to step away earlier when he was at odds with former President Donald Trump over the country's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The interview will be broadcast Sunday, December 19 on CBS and streamed on Paramount+.

In a wide-ranging interview covering his career, the pandemic and more, Collins told Braver he has done everything he could to stay out of partisan political debates because "it really is not a place where medical research belongs."

Collins revealed that once the pandemic began, he found himself facing off with Mr. Trump over Collins' refusal to endorse scientifically-disproven remedies.

"And I got into a difficult place and got a bit of a talking-to by the president, but I stuck my ground," Collins said.

Braver asked, "Would you have resigned if it had come to the White House trying to get you do to something you didn't want to do?"

"Yeah, I was not going to compromise scientific principles just to hold onto the job," Collins replied.

Collins also told Braver he resisted attacks from the right calling him to fire one of his key team members – Dr. Anthony Fauci.

"Can you imagine a circumstance where the director of the NIH, somebody who believes in science, would submit to political pressures and fire the greatest expert in infectious diseases the world has known just to satisfy political concerns?" Collins asked.

The Emmy Award-winning "Sunday Morning" is broadcast on CBS Sundays beginning at 9 a.m. ET. "Sunday Morning" also streams on CBSN [beginning at 10:30 a.m. ET] and Paramount+, and is available on and

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EDITOR'S NOTE: An earlier version of this article stated that Dr. Collins was the longest-serving NIH director ever. In fact, the longest-serving was Dr. George McCoy, who served 1915-1937. 

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