Michael Caputo, the top spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), will be taking a leave of absence following a bizarre, concerning rant on his personal Facebook account.
In its announcement HHS said that Caputo “has decided to take a leave of absence to focus on his health and the well-being of his family,” adding and that “Mr. Caputo will be on leave for the next 60 days.” That means he will be out of the office until after Election Day.
In the Facebook Live video, which has since been removed from social media, Caputo warned that “There are scientists who work for this government who do not want America to get well,” Caputo warned, “at least, not until after Joe Biden is president.” He added that the Centers for Disease Control were purposely pushing “rotten science” to bring down President Trump.
He then seemed to flip the switch on a fear shared by some Democrats, that Trump could refuse to leave office even if he loses the election. On the contrary, Caputo claimed, it was Joe Biden, the Democratic nominee for president, who he believes will refuse to accept the outcome of the election. “And when Donald Trump refuses to stand down at the inauguration,” Caputo said on Facebook, “the shooting will begin.”
“The drills that you’ve seen are nothing,” he said, referring to the killing of a Trump supporter in Portland by a radical anti-fascist. “If you carry guns, buy ammunition, ladies and gentlemen, because it’s going to be hard to get.” He then added that “they are going to have to kill me” before Trump backs down, though it is unclear exactly who “they” are.
A short time after HHS announced his departure, Caputo released a statement of his own, though it made no mention of his Facebook rant. He did, however, mention that he was dealing with a personal “lymphatic issue” which he says “contributed to my stress level, along with the increasing number of violent threats leveled at me and my family back in Buffalo.”
Michael Caputo joined the department in April, following rumors that HHS Secretary Alex Azar was at odds with President Trump over coronavirus messaging. Caputo, himself a longtime Trump ally, joined the department to manage communications, even though he had no background in science.
On Monday, Washington Senator Patty Murray, who is the highest-ranking Democrat on the Senate health committee, called for Caputo’s resignation. “He’s a yes-man for President Trump with no scientific expertise who publicly attacked CDC scientists and privately interfered with key CDC reports,” Murray declared.
Meanwhile, Senator Chuck Schumer, the Senate Minority Leader, raised the stakes by demanding Azar’s resignation as well. Schumer said that the HHS secretary has been “entirely silent about the chaos and mismanagement” at the agency, and that he had failed to rein in Trump’s “political appointees.” The White House responded that Azar was not going anywhere.