sunny.png
Sunday September 20th, 2020 9:52AM

Trump aide's no-holds-barred style sparks new COVID-19 furor

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

WASHINGTON (AP) — A Trump health appointee who used his agency as a platform for political attacks and allegedly sought to muzzle a scientific publication has become the latest distraction for a White House still struggling to define its coronavirus response.

Michael Caputo, the top spokesman at the Department of Health and Human Services, can be heard on an agency podcast asserting that Democrats don't want a coronavirus vaccine in order to punish President Donald Trump.

Recent news reports also alleged that his office tried to muzzle a scientific weekly published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That was followed by an account of a video on Caputo’s personal Facebook page in which the Trump loyalist accused government scientists of conspiring against Trump and suggested violence could break out after the elections.

Caputo was named the top HHS spokesman in April, during a tense period in relations between the White House and HHS Secretary Alex Azar.

On a taxpayer-funded podcast earlier this summer the former New York political operative accused Democrats and the media of not wanting a coronavirus vaccine until after the elections in order to punish the president.

“There are people in the United States government on the Democrats' side ... (who) do not want a vaccine,” he said.

“They don’t want a vaccine until November 4th,” he added, citing the day after the presidential election. It's highly unusual to use an agency communications platform for such a blatantly political message.

Over the weekend, Caputo made headlines when Politico and The New York Times reported that Caputo's office had tried to gain control over a CDC publication known as the MMWR, or Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. In previous administrations, political appointees in the HHS secretary's office maintained a hands-off policy with regard to the publication from CDC, which is under the department's umbrella.

The story took a strange turn on Monday, after the Times reported on a live video hosted by Caputo on his personal Facebook page. In it, Caputo reportedly accused government scientists of conspiring against Trump as part of a “resistance.”

The message turned apocalyptic when Caputo reportedly predicted that Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden would refuse to concede defeat to Trump in the election, and violence would break out. The Associated Press was unable to independently view the video.

HHS supported Caputo, with a statement that called him a “critical, integral part of the president’s coronavirus response, leading on public messaging as Americans need public health information to defeat the COVID-19 pandemic.”

There was no immediate statement from the White House.

Attempts to reach Caputo were unsuccessful.

On Capitol Hill, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., called on Azar to fire Caputo, accusing the spokesman of trying to interfere with CDC reports to the medical and scientific community, as well as the public at large. And Senate Minority leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called on Azar himself to resign, citing interference with the CDC as one example of what he termed the administration's failures.

Officials at CDC have privately complained of recent efforts by political appointees at main HHS to try to edit or press for changes in the agency's weekly MMWR publications, a go-to resource for public health professionals.

“They have been trying to insert themselves into a lot, especially the MMWR, and they're interested in editing it,” said a person outside the agency who spoke with insiders involved. The person providing the information spoke on condition of anonymity to describe private conversations.

MMWR articles are technical, but they reveal telling details. One published earlier this year noted that while Trump's travel restrictions dramatically reduced travel from China in February, nothing was being done at that time to restrict travel from Italy and Europe, where the coronavirus was spreading widely and rapidly. Analysis of virus samples from hard-hit New York in March suggested it was introduced from Europe and other parts of the U.S., the CDC article reported.

Caputo is an unswerving Trump loyalist. His recent book, “The Ukraine Hoax,” claims the president’s “phony” impeachment was rooted in a vast conspiracy.

His appointment at HHS was seen as an attempt by the White House to exert more control over Azar, whom other administration officials were trying to blame for the government's slow response in the initial weeks of the pandemic.

At HHS, he's been closely affiliated with Operation Warp Speed, the government's effort to have millions of doses of a COVID-19 vaccine ready for distribution as soon as one is approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

Caputo interviewed Dr. Moncef Slaoui, a top outside adviser to the vaccine effort, on an HHS podcast July 31. Commiserating with Slaoui over news articles that were critical of the doctor, Caputo said:

“There are people in the United States government on the Democrats side, we’ve seen these calls for all kinds of ethical stuff on you from the Democrats, they are calling for -- because they do not want a vaccine.

"I know that’s hard to believe, but the people who are abusing you, and who are beating down Operation Warp Speed, and the incredible historic work that’s going on, they don’t want a vaccine until November 4th. I don’t want to talk about politics here, but November 3rd is an important day. They don’t want a vaccine now because of politics, sir.”

___

Associated Press news researcher Jennifer Farrar contributed to this report.

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP National News, Top General short headlines, AP Online Headlines - Washington, AP Health, AP Elections, General Election News, General Presidential Election News
© Copyright 2020 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Gonsolin cools off Padres, Rios homers in Dodgers' 3-1 win
Tony Gonsolin quieted San Diego’s bats for seven innings, Edwin Rios homered and the Los Angeles Dodgers won 3-1 to snap the Padres’ eight-game winning streak and regain a 2 ½-game lead in the NL West
12:15AM ( 23 minutes ago )
How Bloomberg's $100 million Florida bet may shape campaign
Mike Bloomberg has come through on his vow to spend “whatever it takes” to defeat President Donald Trump
12:12AM ( 26 minutes ago )
Isles stay alive: Eberle seals 2-1 2OT win over Lightning
Jordan Eberle scored on a two-on-one break 12:30 into the second overtime and the New York Islanders avoided elimination with a 2-1 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference final
12:08AM ( 30 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
India surpasses 5 million coronavirus cases, 82,066 deaths
India’ coronavirus confirmed cases cross 5 million, still soaring and testing the country’s feeble health care system in tens of thousands of impoverished towns and villages
11:54PM ( 44 minutes ago )
'Huge rainmaker': Hurricane Sally threatens historic floods
Heavy rain and high winds from Hurricane Sally's outer storm bands are pounding the Florida and Alabama coasts
11:44PM ( 54 minutes ago )
Seeping under doors, bad air from West's fires won't ease up
Dangerously dirty air spewing from massive wildfires on the West Coast is seeping into homes and businesses and keeping people already shut away by the coronavirus pandemic from enjoying even a walk outside
11:35PM ( 1 hour ago )
AP National News
City to pay $12M to Breonna Taylor's family, reform police
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer says the city has agreed to a settlement with the family of Breonna Taylor that includes a $12 million payment and police reforms after the Black woman was fatally shot by police who burst into her home at night
6:43PM ( 5 hours ago )
South Dakota AG was frequent traveler before fatal crash
South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg had made few waves as the state's top law enforcement officer until he struck and killed a man with a car over the weekend
6:36PM ( 6 hours ago )
Top General short headlines
Harris, home in California, gets a look at wildfire damage
California Sen. Kamala Harris says partisan ideology shouldn't govern leaders' responses to wildfires and climate change ravaging her home state
11:20PM ( 1 hour ago )
The Latest: Pre-debate, Biden studying Trump's past comments
Joe Biden says he’s begun preparing for presidential debates that begin later this month by studying President Donald Trump’s past comments
10:50PM ( 1 hour ago )
The Latest: Biden offers support for Puerto Rican statehood
Joe Biden is expressing his strongest support yet for Puerto Rican statehood, though he says the decision must be made by residents of the island
9:03PM ( 3 hours ago )
AP Online Headlines - Washington
The Latest: UN assembly head warns of pandemic unilateralism
The new president of the U.N. General Assembly is warning that unilateralism will only strengthen the COVID-19 pandemic and is calling for a new commitment to global cooperation including on the fair and equitable distribution of vaccines
10:18PM ( 2 hours ago )
The Latest: Oklahoma inmate deaths likely linked to COVID-19
The Oklahoma State Department of Corrections says two more state prison inmates have died, and the deaths could be linked to COVID-19
5:14PM ( 7 hours ago )
The Latest: Missouri students expelled over virus violations
With more than 1,300 of its students infected with the coronavirus, the University of Missouri in Columbia has expelled two students and suspended three others for violating rules meant to slow the virus’ spread
4:19PM ( 8 hours ago )
AP Health
Trump to take questions in TV 'town hall' as debates warm-up
President Donald Trump is participating in a televised “town hall” with uncommitted voters Tuesday night
4:53PM ( 7 hours ago )
Trump a new regular on 'Fox & Friends'? Not so fast
President Donald Trump seemed to surprise the cast of “Fox & Friends” Tuesday by saying he had agreed to be a once-a-week guest on Fox News Channel's morning show
4:52PM ( 7 hours ago )
The Latest: Aide says Biden will join Senate Democrats' call
Joe Biden is set to meet virtually with Senate Democrats for the first time since becoming the party’s presidential nominee
4:37PM ( 8 hours ago )
AP Elections
House GOP unveils tax cuts, police funds in election agenda
House Minority leader Kevin McCarthy has rolled out Republicans’ priorities of tax breaks and police funding for 2021
11:18AM ( 13 hours ago )
Pandemic forces journalists to rethink campaign coverage
The pandemic has forced news organizations to rethink how they cover the presidential campaign — and some journalists say that's not necessarily a bad thing
11:14AM ( 13 hours ago )
Trump defies virus rules as 'peaceful protest' rallies grow
President Donald Trump is running as the “law and order” candidate, but that hasn’t stopped him and his reelection campaign from defying state emergency orders and flouting his administration’s coronavirus guidelines as he holds rallies in battleground states
7:55AM ( 16 hours ago )
General Election News
Trump to preside over historic Arab-Israel recognition deals
President Donald Trump is set to preside over the signing of historic diplomatic deals between Israel and two Gulf Arab nations that could herald a dramatic shift in Middle East power dynamics
12:09PM ( 12 hours ago )
California governor gently confronts Trump on climate
California Gov. Gavin Newsom was respectful with President Donald Trump about climate change during his visit to the state
10:05PM ( 1 day ago )
The Latest: Trump said 'nothing more' could be done on virus
President Donald Trump told journalist Bob Woodward that “nothing more could have been done” in his response to the coronavirus
4:17PM ( 1 day ago )
General Presidential Election News
Gonsolin cools off Padres, Rios homers in Dodgers' 3-1 win
Tony Gonsolin quieted San Diego’s bats for seven innings, Edwin Rios homered and the Los Angeles Dodgers won 3-1 to snap the Padres’ eight-game winning streak and regain a 2 ½-game lead in the NL West
12:15AM ( 23 minutes ago )
How Bloomberg's $100 million Florida bet may shape campaign
Mike Bloomberg has come through on his vow to spend “whatever it takes” to defeat President Donald Trump
12:12AM ( 26 minutes ago )
Isles stay alive: Eberle seals 2-1 2OT win over Lightning
Jordan Eberle scored on a two-on-one break 12:30 into the second overtime and the New York Islanders avoided elimination with a 2-1 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference final
12:08AM ( 30 minutes ago )
Transgender activist wins Delaware state senate primary
Transgender activist Sarah McBride has won a Democratic state Senate primary in Delaware and is poised to make history as the first transgender person elected to the state's General Assembly
12:01AM ( 37 minutes ago )
Asian shares mostly higher after Wall Street gains
Shares are mostly higher in Asia after advances for big technology companies carried Wall Street to further gains overnight
11:59PM ( 40 minutes ago )