Top HHS official apologizes for saying scientists are politically motivated, considers medical leave

Health and Human Services (HHS) Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs Michael Caputo apologized to Secretary Alex Azar in an emergency meeting Tuesday following comments he made accusing career government scientists of plotting against President TrumpDonald John TrumpDemocrats, advocates seethe over Florida voting rights ruling Russian jets identified in Trump campaign ad calling for support for the troops Democratic Senate candidate ‘hesitant’ to get COVID-19 vaccine if approved this year MORE

Caputo reportedly expressed regret for embarrassing Azar and the agency at large for saying, among other things, that “there are scientists who work for this government who do not want America to get well, not until after [Democratic presidential nominee] Joe BidenJoe BidenDemocrats, advocates seethe over Florida voting rights ruling Trump order on drug prices faces long road to finish line There’s no debate: America needs an equitable and resilient government MORE is president.”

According to an HHS official who confirmed the meeting to The Hill, Caputo also said some of his comments have been taken out of context and recommended his staff to listen to music by the Grateful Dead. 

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News of the meeting comes after Caputo, during a Facebook Live session on Sunday, alleged that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was harboring a “resistance unit,” according to The New York Times. Scientists that worked for the agency, he alleged, “haven’t gotten out of their sweatpants except for meetings at coffee shops” to plot “how they’re going to attack Donald Trump.”

His comments came after a report from Politico published Friday said that top HHS appointees had been interfering in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports (MMWR) on the coronavirus pandemic. House Democrats have launched a probe into the alleged interference. 

Multiple reports  that have surfaced detailing the Tuesday meeting say that Caputo also admitted to staff that he has never read the CDC’s reports, though his team has reportedly sought to make edits to those documents. 

Caputo, 58, reportedly told staffers his behavior stemmed from stress related to his physical health after he and his family have received threats. He is also considering going on medical leave to address those issues. 

Trump is reportedly expected to have a hand in any decision about Caputo’s next steps.

Caputo, a former Trump campaign aide, has deleted his Twitter account.

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