Trump appointee takes leave of absence after furor over false claims

Michael Caputo, left, is taking the time “to focus on his health and the well-being of his family,” the Department of Health and Human Services said in a statement released to the media. “Mr. Caputo will be on leave for the next 60 days.”

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

A high-ranking Trump administration official embroiled in a furor over political meddling with the coronavirus response is taking a leave of absence, the government announced Wednesday.

Michael Caputo is taking the time “to focus on his health and the well-being of his family,” the Department of Health and Human Services said in a statement released to the media. “Mr. Caputo will be on leave for the next 60 days.”

Caputo, the department’s top spokesman, apologized Tuesday to his staff for a Facebook video in which he accused scientists battling the coronavirus of sedition and conspiring against President Donald Trump. He also warned of an armed insurrection in America if Trump were to lose the November election and urged the president’s followers to arm themselves.

The Trump appointee also was accused of trying to alter scientific reports and muzzle a scientific weekly put out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Ryan Murphy, a longtime aide to Health Secretary Alex Azar and principal deputy assistant secretary for public affairs, will step in to lead day-to-day operations, according to the statement.

ArLuther Lee of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution contributed to this report.