• Tue. Sep 22nd, 2020

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Top Trump Health Official Michael Caputo Takes Leave of Absence After Online Rant About Coronavirus

Michael Caputo will take a 60-day medical leave of absence from his role as the Department of Health and Human Service’s top spokesperson — a decision that comes days after he accused government scientists of “sedition” and warned of coming left-wing violence in a Facebook video.

“Today, the Department of Health and Human Services is announcing that HHS Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs Michael Caputo has decided to take a leave of absence to focus on his health and the well-being of his family,” the department said in a statement Wednesday.

Paul Alexander, Caputo’s science adviser — who was at the center of efforts to muzzle the department’s career scientists — also will be leaving HHS, the department said.

Caputo, who on Tuesday apologized to HHS staff for his remarks, confirmed to POLITICO that he is taking medical leave. In a statement released Wednesday afternoon, he said the leave would allow him “to pursue necessary screenings for a lymphatic issue discovered last week.”

Caputo added that he had put off seeing a doctor about the issue for months. “This was a mistake, and contributed to my stress level, along with the increasing number of violent threats leveled at me and my family back in Buffalo,” he said. “But every American battling COVID — in every city in every state across the nation — has been under enormous pressure. I am just one of them.”

Ryan Murphy willtake over as the department’s acting assistant secretary for public affairs in the meantime, a role that he had filled prior to Caputo’s arrival in mid-April.

The move caps a turbulent past week for HHS, marked by a series of revelations about Caputo’s politically motivated attempts to meddle with the activities of its public health agencies, and his unfounded allegations on Facebook that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was harboring a “resistance unit” devoted to undermining President Donald Trump’s bid for reelection.

The departure of Caputo, a longtime Trump loyalist who has closely controlled HHS’ messaging on the pandemic response, could also further set back the administration’s efforts to promote its work toward a possible vaccine in the run-up to Election Day.

Full story Politico

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