The health department’s top spokesman Michael Caputo apologized in a staff meeting on Tuesday for his recent negative attention to the Trump strategists that prompted calls from Democrats for his resignation.
On Sunday Caputo took wild accusations to Facebook, suggesting of an armed insurrection after the election, as public health officials were trying to undermine Trump’s re-election.
Caputo blamed his recent behavior on a combination of physical health issues and the toll of fielding death threats against his family. Caputo also acknowledged that he had never read one of the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports, despite his team’s ongoing efforts to try to edit those documents.
Three people with knowledge of Caputo’s decision-making confirmed that he was mulling stepping aside as the department’s assistant secretary for public affairs to take medical leave. One former HHS official told POLITICO that Caputo, a former Trump campaign official, has long complained of the stress caused by having been mentioned in the special counsel’s investigation on Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Caputo in the meeting on Tuesday disputed anonymous White House criticisms about his mental health, saying his comments were taken out of context. He concluded the meeting by encouraging staff to listen to Grateful Dead music.
On Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer issued a call for Azar’s ouster as well, accusing him of allowing political appointees to interfere with the department’s public health work being “almost entirely silent about the chaos and mismanagement in his own agency.”