Top U.S. health agency spokesman Caputo to go on leave of absence

U.S. President Trump holds coronavirus response event in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington

(Reuters) – Michael Caputo, the top communications official at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), will take a two-month-long leave of absence, the agency said on Wednesday.

The news comes two days after the New York Times reported that Caputo, a former adviser to President Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, said on Facebook that government scientists were engaging in “sedition” in their handling of the pandemic.

Caputo said without evidence that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was harboring a “resistance unit” determined to undermine Trump, according to the report.

He has since apologized to HHS staff for his behavior, according to multiple media reports https://www.politico.com/news/2020/09/15/michael-caputo-apology-hhs-staff-415206 on Tuesday.

“Since joining the administration my family and I have been continually threatened and in and out of criminal court dealing with related harassment prosecutions,” Caputo told Reuters on Tuesday.

HHS, the cabinet department in charge of combating the coronavirus, said in a statement on Wednesday that Caputo had decided to go on a leave of absence “to focus on his health and the well-being of his family.”

Caputo did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Ryan Murphy, the principal deputy assistant secretary for public affairs, will be in charge of Caputo’s office during his absence, the agency said.

Paul Alexander, a senior policy advisor to Caputo, will be leaving the department, HHS said.

(Reporting by Manojna Maddipatla in Bengaluru; Editing by Aditya Soni)