cloudy.png
Sunday September 27th, 2020 11:36AM

Apology, no firing: Official said US scientists hurt Trump

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

WASHINGTON (AP) — A Trump health appointee who is accused of trying to muzzle an important scientific publication in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic apologized Tuesday for a separate video in which he reportedly says scientists battling the virus are conspiring against President Donald Trump and warns of shooting in America if Trump loses the election.

Michael Caputo, the top spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services, apologized to his staff for the Facebook video, said an administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal matters.

The department is standing by Caputo so far in the face of calls by congressional Democrats for his dismissal — and for the resignation of his boss, HHS Secretary Alex Azar. But Caputo, a Trump loyalist and former New York political operative, has become a significant new problem for a White House that has struggled all year with its coronavirus response.

He can be heard on an HHS podcast asserting that Democrats don't want a coronavirus vaccine before the election in order to punish Trump. Although Trump has made the same assertion, with no evidence to support it, such broadsides are not in a department spokesman's normal portfolio.

News reports alleged last week that Caputo's office tried to take over and muzzle a scientific weekly from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that publishes what is supposed to be authoritative, unvarnished information about disease-fighting efforts, including, most importantly at present, COVID-19.

Then on Monday came an account of the video on Caputo’s personal Facebook page in which he accused government scientists of conspiring against Trump and suggested violence could break out after the election.

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 he accused Democrats and the media of not wanting a coronavirus vaccine until after the elections in order to defeat Trump.

“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 his 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.

The story took a strange turn Monday, after the Times reported about 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 calling 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 interview 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. 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 HHS to try to edit or press for changes in the agency's weekly MMWR publications, a go-to resource for public health professionals.

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 there 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 Democrats and news articles that were critical of the doctor, Caputo said:

"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, AP Online National News, Top General short headlines, AP Online Headlines - Washington, AP Health, AP Elections, General Election News, General Presidential Election News, AP Business
© Copyright 2020 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Apology, no firing: Official said US scientists hurt Trump
A Trump health appointee who launched political attacks and allegedly sought to muzzle scientific information is creating new distractions for the White House in its disjointed coronavirus response
5:11PM ( 12 minutes ago )
World Series at Arlington, first time at one site since 1944
The World Series will be played entirely at the Texas Rangers’ new ballpark in Arlington, Texas, as part of a bubble agreement between Major League Baseball and the players’ association
5:06PM ( 18 minutes ago )
As MLB plays on, the businesses it feeds fight for survival
While the major league baseball season presses on amid the coronavirus pandemic, the ban on fans at games has created a perilous situation for businesses who rely on fans for survival
4:56PM ( 28 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Trump aide apologizes for video slamming virus scientists
A Trump health appointee who launched political attacks and allegedly sought to muzzle scientific information is creating new distractions for the White House in its disjointed coronavirus response
4:29PM ( 54 minutes ago )
Pelosi: House to stay in session until COVID-19 rescue pact
Speaker Nancy Pelosi says the House will remain in session until lawmakers deliver another round of COVID-19 relief
4:23PM ( 1 hour ago )
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
4:15PM ( 1 hour ago )
AP National News
City to pay $12M to Breonna Taylor's mom, 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
3:05PM ( 2 hours ago )
In Florida, Biden criticizes Trump for remarks on veterans
Joe Biden is tearing into President Donald Trump for his reported remarks referring to fallen soldiers as “suckers” during a Tuesday campaign visit to the key battleground state of Florida
2:51PM ( 2 hours ago )
$1M bail set for Lancaster police shooting demonstrators
Bail for seven of 13 people behind bars on allegations of committing crimes while participating in a civil disturbance in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, has been set for $1 million
2:36PM ( 2 hours ago )
AP Online National News
Science mag makes first endorsement in 175 years, taps Biden
The magazine Scientific American chose Democrat Joe Biden over President Donald Trump in the first presidential endorsement in the publication's 175-year history
4:26PM ( 58 minutes ago )
Trump ramps up ad spending in bid to counter Biden
President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign is ramping up advertising spending in battleground states, a move that comes as allies of the president have grown worried that Democrat Joe Biden has outspent him in recent weeks
4:25PM ( 59 minutes ago )
Biden seeks to woo Latinos in 1st trip to Florida as nominee
In his first trip to Florida at the Democratic presidential nominee, Joe Biden sought to build support among Latinos, who could decide the election in one of the nation's fiercest battleground states
4:17PM ( 1 hour ago )
AP Elections
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 ( 9 hours ago )
Harris draws on her past as US faces reckoning on police
Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris is drawing on her past as the U.S. faces a reckoning over policing
5:42AM ( 11 hours ago )
Trump highlights foreign policy wins as he woos voters
President Donald Trump is highlighting diplomatic wins with a series of events in the run-up to the election, but solutions to the country's most challenging foreign policy problems are still out of his reach
12:41AM ( 16 hours ago )
General Election News
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 ( 19 hours ago )
Vision 2020: Electoral College vs popular vote in America
One of the quirks of the U.S. election process is that one candidate can win the popular vote but another can win the electoral vote and thus the presidency
3:54PM ( 1 day ago )
The Latest: Trump challenged on climate denial in California
California Gov_ Gavin Newsom says his state can do a better job of forest management, but he tells President Donald Trump that it is “self-evident that climate change is real and that is exacerbating this.”
3:26PM ( 1 day ago )
General Presidential Election News
World Series at Arlington, first time at one site since 1944
The World Series will be played entirely at the Texas Rangers’ new ballpark in Arlington, Texas, as part of a bubble agreement between Major League Baseball and the players’ association
5:06PM ( 18 minutes ago )
As MLB plays on, the businesses it feeds fight for survival
While the major league baseball season presses on amid the coronavirus pandemic, the ban on fans at games has created a perilous situation for businesses who rely on fans for survival
4:56PM ( 28 minutes 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 ( 32 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
4:49PM ( 35 minutes 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 ( 47 minutes ago )