WASHINGTON, D.C. — Michael Caputo, the Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs, has taken a leave of absence from the department "to focus on the health and the well-being of his family," according to a statement.
The move comes one day after Caputo reportedly called an emergency staff meeting to apologize after reports emerged that he unleashed a barrage of right-wing conspiracy theories during a live video on his personal Facebook page Sunday.
Among the allegations, Caputo accused, without evidence, career government scientists of “sedition” by forming a “resistance unit” to undermine President Donald Trump during the coronavirus pandemic, The New York Times reported Monday. Caputo also predicted Trump would win re-election, Democratic nominee Joe Biden would not concede, and left-wing hit squads would show up at the inauguration to start shooting.
The video came after multiple reports this past weekend that Caputo and a top aide have pressured the authors of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s weekly updates on the progress of the coronavirus pandemic to alter, delay and scrap altogether the reports because they did not match Trump’s more optimistic public narrative. House Democrats have launched an investigation into the matter.
Caputo complained on Facebook that he was under siege by the media, adding that his physical and mental health are suffering.
He also suggested he could personally be in danger.
“You understand that they’re going to have to kill me, and unfortunately, I think that’s where this is going,” Caputo said in the video.
On Monday, Caputo, according to the Times, said: “Since joining the administration my family and I have been continually threatened” and harassed by people who have later been prosecuted. “This weighs heavily on us, and we deeply appreciate the friendship and support of President Trump as we address these matters and keep our children safe.”
In a statement, the Department of Health and Human Services called Caputo “a critical, integral part of the president’s coronavirus response, leading on public messaging as Americans need public health information to defeat the Covid-19 pandemic.”
In his Facebook rant, Caputo said scientists “deep in the bowels of the CDC have given up science and become political animals,” echoing a baseless claim Trump is increasingly making on the campaign trail.
They “haven’t gotten out of their sweatpants except for meetings at coffee shops” to plot “how they’re going to attack Donald Trump next,” Caputo said. “There are scientists who work for this government who do not want America to get well, not until after Joe Biden is president.”
The CDC has traditionally been apolitical.
Caputo also urged his Facebook followers who own guns to stock up on ammunition before left-wing anarchists buy up bullets they plan to use in their revolt at Trump’s inauguration. The HHS spokesman claimed the fatal shooting in Portland last month of pro-Trump activist Aaron Danielson by antifa supporter Michael Forest Reinoehl was a “drill” and that there are “squads being trained all over the country.”
"Ryan Murphy, as the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs, will lead the day-to-day operations of the office during this time," the statement said. Murphy previously served as Acting Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs.