Trump health appointee Michael Caputo announced Wednesday he is taking a 60-day medical leave of absence from the department after discovering a ‘lymphatic issue’ last week.
Caputo, who was serving as the department’s top spokesman, called on the public to go to doctor if they notice problems after he says he dismissed his weight loss for months.
He said that the weight change, as well as the ‘violent threats leveled at me’ over allegations of political interference in the federal coronavirus response, had contributed enormously to his stress levels.
Caputo, who is fiercely loyal to the president, added his thanks to Dr. Anthony Fauci, a member of the White House coronavirus task force, who he says talked to his personal physician about the medical issues.
Just a day before, Caputo had hastily apologized after a Facebook video in which he likened government scientists to a ‘resistance’ against President Donald Trump.
Trump health appointee Michael Caputo announced Wednesday is taking a medical leave of absence from the department after discovering a ‘lymphatic issue’ last week
Caputo made a statement about the medical leave of absence on Twitter
‘After consultation with President Trump and Secretary Azar, I have decided to take a temporary medical leave of absence to pursue necessary screenings for a lymphatic issue discovered last week, Caputo announced in a tweet.
‘My experience mirrors that of many Americans. When I first noticed I was losing weight, I thought it was because of a new exercise and diet regimen. But over time, I realized there may be other factors causing my weight loss for months.
‘Instead of taking the time to see my doctor, I failed to do so. Waiting months was a mistake, and contributed to my stress level, along with the increasing number of violent threats leveled at me and my family back in Buffalo.’
He added that all American workers throughout the pandemic have been ‘under enormous strain’.
‘I am just one of them,’ Caputo continued.
‘I’ve learned so much in friendship with the doctors of the President’s Coronavirus Task Force. Sometimes we disagree, but we work in unity to defeat the virus and we care for one another.
‘I want to thank Dr Tony Fauci for conferring with my personal physician as we get the healthcare I long needed, and yet neglected, through the pandemic.
‘Our family is blessed. We urge all Americans to see their family doctor for the healthcare they need but have missed for months during this crisis. Don’t delay any longer. Do it today.’
The leave of absence comes following the allegations of political interference, followed by a personal video that warned of election violence and all but equated science with resistance.
His post is usually not overtly political but Caputo was installed by the White House in April during a period of tense relations with the president’s health secretary, Alex Azar.
Caputo, who has no health care background, was the subject of news reports last weekend that he tried to gain editorial control over a scientific weekly published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Caputo spoke about how he put off his medical issues for months
He added that threats to him and his family had added to the stress
That was followed by reports about a video he hosted on his Facebook page in which he likened government scientists to a ‘resistance’ against Trump and warned that shooting would break out if Trump won the election and Democrat Joe Biden refused to concede.
Caputo had apologized in an emergency staff meeting Tuesday after the New York Times reported on his Facebook post, where Caputo lashed out at opponents, lamented the state of his own mental health, and told people: ‘If you carry guns, buy ammunition, ladies and gentlemen, because it’s going to be hard to get.’
Caputo, who delivered the video message from his home in upstate New York, tells his 5,000 followers: ‘I’m under siege. It’s been going on for a couple of weeks. And I don’t care. Because I have the president’s support. I know that because he’s told me so.’
Caputo’s declarations came as Azar and other top health care officials are trying to convince skeptical Americans that science will have the final say in the approval of coronavirus vaccines.
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., had called for his resignation; Republican senators remained publicly silent.
Leaving the department is Paul Alexander, who was brought in as a policy advisor to Caputo on a temporary basis, the department’s statement said.
Caputo added his thanks to Dr. Anthony Fauci, a member of the White House coronavirus task force who he says talked to his personal physician about his medical issues
Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., who leads a special panel overseeing the government’s COVID-19 response, called the shakeup at HHS ‘an important first step.’ Nonetheless, Clyburn said he has started an investigation into Caputo’s alleged effort to interfere with the CDC publication.
Caputo’s short tenure was marked by devotion to Trump, disdain for Democrats and the media, along with some scientists, as well as hints that he felt personally hounded by political enemies.
In an taxpayer-funded HHS podcast July 31, he spoke of having ‘a target on my back.’ Caputo also accused Democrats in the government, along with the news media, of not wanting a vaccine so as to punish the president.
Caputo had once joked that ‘everything I learned about health care I learned from the Obamacare website,’ and that ‘I’m science-stunted’.
His resume has taken him through Trump’s turbulent world in recent years, and he displayed a political operator’s instinct to trade punches.
Caputo’s short tenure was marked by devotion to Trump, disdain for Democrats and the media, along with some scientists, as well as hints that he felt personally hounded by political enemies
An Army veteran with a background in media, Caputo played a leading role in Trump’s 2016 New York state Republican primary victory and later moved over to the national campaign.
He has described himself as having a fraternal relationship with political operative Roger Stone, the longtime Trump ally whose 40-month sentence for witness tampering, false statements and obstructing a congressional investigation into Russian election interference was commuted by the president.
Stone is ‘like my big brother,’ Caputo told the House Intelligence Committee in 2017. ‘We’re very different, but I love him very much.’ He said he would talk to Stone every day.
Caputo made a cameo appearance in the Robert Mueller investigation into Russian election interference.
Mueller’s report noted that Caputo had put Stone in contact with a Florida-based Russian businessman who claimed to have dirt on 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
But Stone refused to pay for the information that the businessman claimed to have and nothing came of it.
In his testimony to the House Intelligence Committee, Caputo said that he never discussed the Trump campaign with anybody associated with the Russian government. He described himself as no fan of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Caputo is also the author of a recent book, ‘The Ukraine Hoax,’ which claims the president’s ‘phony’ impeachment was rooted in a vast conspiracy. Trump was acquitted by the Senate.
On the Amazon.com page where Caputo’s book is sold, it reads:
‘The Democrats tried to undo President Trump´s 2016 election with Russia investigations and Ukraine impeachment. I know the president was right to ask Ukraine´s president for investigations because the Democrats are up to their necks in corruption there.’
Caputo was installed by President Donald Trump, pictured, in April during a period of tense relations with the president’s health secretary, Alex Azar, amid the pandemic
At HHS, Caputo became closely involved with communications for Operation Warp Speed, the government’s effort to have coronavirus vaccines ready to ship to Americans once approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
His undoing seemed to come when he allegedly tried to exert influence over a CDC publication known as the MMWR, or Morbidity and Mortality Weekly report. MMWR articles are technical, but they have revealed telling details about the pandemic, sometimes seized upon by Trump’s critics.
On one of his HHS podcasts, Caputo unburdened himself to Dr. Anthony Fauci about his own struggles with science as a young man. Caputo said he wanted to be an engineer, but wound up getting a journalism degree. Fauci is the government´s top infectious disease specialist.
‘I’m science-stunted,’ Caputo told Fauci. ‘I have a problem, I think, like most Americans. But now that I’ve been here for a little while, I understand that science is kind of an iterative process. And it´s one that eventually you arrive at the absolute truth.’