The chief spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services deleted his Twitter in the wake of a late night, proposing tear gas journalists and battling with other users on the social media platform.
Michael Caputo, who used his verified Twitter account, reportedly commented “gas them all” in response to a post from a self-described journalist who posted a video saying they were getting tear gas. In another post, Caputo referred to another user on the social media site as a feminine hygiene product and mocked that person by saying “you have four followers.”
Monday afternoon, the personal Twitter account of Caputo, assistant secretary of public affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services, showed a message saying “This account does not exist.”
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“Mr. Caputo is a critical, integral part of the president’s coronavirus response, leading to public announcements as Americans need public health information to defeat the Covid-19 pandemic,” HHS said in an email comment to Bloomberg, which first reported on the case.
Caputo, formerly a campaign aide to President Trump, is currently the subject of a house-to-house survey of whether political appointees have interfered with routine scientific government data to better align with Trump’s public statements about the coronavirus pandemic.
The Democratic-led subcommittee said Monday it is requesting transcribed interviews with seven officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and HHS, including Caputo. Caputo has often publicly pushed back on CDC statements about coronavirus, falsely saying in a Facebook video Sunday that the CDC has a “resistance unit” against Trump, according to The New York Times. His Facebook page has since been made private.
According to a report in Politico, Caputo, along with Scientific Adviser Paul Alexander, pressured officials to change the CDC’s Weekly Reports of Morbidity and Mortality, a lengthy weekly journal containing the latest science-based research and data on infectious diseases. Known as the MMWR, the report has long been a sacred government information resource for physicians, researchers, and researchers who track outbreaks.
Officials pressured the CDC to amend the reports, at times retroactively, to better align them with Trump’s often more laudatory public statements about coronavirus, Politico reported.
In a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and CDC director Robert Redfield, the Democratic members of the subcommittee said they were “seriously concerned” about the reports of political interference in a magazine that has long been free of political interference.
“With nearly 200,000 Americans killed and hundreds more dying every day from the coronavirus pandemic, the public needs and deserves truthful scientific information so they can keep themselves and their families healthy,” the Democrats wrote.
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The panel also requires documents from the department, including communications sent or received by Redfield, Azar, Caputo, and Alexander regarding MMWR and other matters.
According to Politico, Caputo and Alexander complained about a report explaining that children can transmit coronavirus, and Alexander asked the CDC to change it or pull it down, saying the report could affect the school’s reopening and harm Trump politically.
In the Facebook Live video, reported by The New York Times, Caputo warned that left-wing hit groups would take part in the armed uprising after the election, saying officials engaged in “upliftment” as they dealt with the pandemic. “You understand they’re going to have to kill me, and unfortunately I think this is where this is going to go,” Caputo was quoted as saying by the Times.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.