WASHINGTON — The top communications official at the powerful Cabinet department in charge of combating the coronavirus made outlandish and false claims on Sunday that career government scientists were engaging in “sedition” in their handling of the pandemic and warned that left-wing hit squads were preparing for armed insurrection after the election.
Michael Caputo, 58, the assistant secretary of public affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services, said without evidence that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was harboring a “resistance unit” determined to undermine President Donald Trump.
Caputo, who has faced criticism for leading efforts to warp CDC weekly bulletins to fit Trump’s pandemic narrative, suggested that he personally could 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, a Trump loyalist installed by the White House in April, told followers in a video he hosted live on his personal Facebook page. Caputo has 5,000 Facebook friends, and the video has been viewed more than 850 times. It has been shared by 44 followers.
The department said in a statement: “Mr. Caputo is 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.”
Caputo said Monday, “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.”
Caputo delivered his broadside against scientists, the media and Democrats after a spate of news reports over the weekend that detailed his team’s systematic interference in the CDC’s official reports on the pandemic and other disease outbreaks. Former and current CDC officials described to Politico, The New York Times and other outlets how Caputo and a top aide routinely demanded the agency revise, delay and even scuttle the CDC’s core public health updates, called Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports, that they believed undercut Trump’s message that the pandemic is under control.
Caputo on Sunday complained on Facebook that he was under siege by the media and said that his physical health was in question and his “mental health has definitely failed.”