Sat. Oct 1st, 2022
A man in a suit walks through a blurry office building.
enlarge Former Trump campaign official Michael Caputo arrives at the Hart Senate Office building on May 1, 2018 to be interviewed by Senate Intelligence Committee staffers in Washington, DC.

Michael Caputo – the controversial spokesperson for the United States Department of Health and Human Services, most recently known for toning down federal reports on COVID-19, protesting social distancing measures, and warning of left-wing “hit squads” launching a post-election uprising – took 60 days leave from the department.

Caputo “decided to take a leave of absence to focus on his health and the well-being of his family,” the HHS said in a statement to Ars.

The statement also noted that Caputo’s scientific advisor, Paul Alexander – recently known for his bid to muzzle top infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci – is also headed out.

Alexander “was hired to work with the department on a temporary basis,” the statement said. “Dr. Alexander will be leaving the ward,” it added succinctly.

The departures come as no surprise after a tumultuous few days. On Monday, Caputo made surprising headlines with a live video on Facebook in which he accused government scientists of “sedition” and claimed that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was housing a “resistance unit.” He also warned that left-wing “hit squads” are preparing for an armed uprising after the election and spoke of long “shadows” in his apartment. He suggested he was in personal danger, saying his “mental health has definitely failed”.

Hard times

The point resonated with comments he made in a politically fueled HHS podcast released Sept. 11. After spending much of the podcast downplaying COVID-19, he noted how the daily work on the pandemic has shocked him. “I find myself talking about death every morning, the first time I use my voice,” Caputo said. He noted heartbreaking stories of doctors watching their COVID-19 patients die: “The looks on their faces when they die is just something they can’t forget. These doctors can’t forget. And… this is the first thing I talk about in the morning.”

But Caputo has also referred to problems with his physical health. During an emergency meeting at HHS Tuesday — in which he apologized for his comments about government scientists — he reportedly suggested he wanted to take medical leave. And in a text message to a New York Times reporter on Wednesday, he said he was taking leave so that he “perform necessary screenings for a lymphatic problem

Caputo’s departure comes after a short stint at HHS. He was installed by the White House in April this year, despite having no background in health care. The move was seen as an attempt by the White House to exert more control over HHS Secretary Alex Azar.

What about Alexander?

Caputo’s background is as a political assistant. He was a protégé of Roger Stone, who worked as a Moscow adviser to Boris Yeltsin and did public relations for Vladimir Putin before becoming a Trump loyalist. As such, he relied on Alexander as a scientific advisor, with a background in epidemiology.

Alexander is listed as a part-time professor at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, but according to reports by The Washington Post, the university tried to distance itself from the controversial figure.

“While Paul Alexander graduated with a Ph.D. in health research methodologies from McMaster in 2015, he currently does not teach and is not paid by the university for his contract role as a part-time assistant professor,” Susan Emigh, a McMaster spokesperson, told the Post. “As a consultant, he does not speak on behalf of McMaster University or the Department of Health Research Methods, Evidence, and Impact.”

By akfire1

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