The health department’s top communications official is taking a medical leave, three days after urging President Trump’s supporters to prepare for an armed insurrection and accusing government scientists of “sedition,” the agency announced Wednesday.
Michael Caputo, assistant secretary for public affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services, leveled the accusations and promoted other conspiracy theories in a Facebook Live event on Sunday.HHS said in a statement released early afternoon that Caputo would be on leave for the next 60 days to “focus on his health and the well-being of his family.” That means he will be gone until after the Nov. 3 election.
The agency also said that Paul Alexander, a top aide to Caputo, would be leaving the agency permanently. Alexander came under scrutiny in recent weeks for his efforts to exert control over the messages coming from scientists and top health officials, including the content of weekly science reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to make them conform to the president’s assertions that the virus is under control.
The health department’s top spokesperson Michael Caputo called an emergency staff meeting on Tuesday to apologize for drawing negative attention to the Trump administration’s health care strategy and signaled that he might be soon departing his role, according to five people with knowledge of the meeting.
The departure of Caputo, who has closely controlled the health agencies’ dissemination of information about coronavirus, would be a blow to the Trump administration’s efforts to promote a possible vaccine, if one is approved in the fall.