While hundreds and then thousands of Americans died of COVID-19 and Trump was promising the virus would disappear like magic, the former president also thought to install a member of the COVID-19 task force whose job it was to agree with everything Trump said. That member was Michael Caputo.
When it was revealed that Caputo ordered a staffer at the CDC to not talk to reporters or discuss the truth about how deadly the virus was and how quickly it was spreading, an investigation into the matter was opened. Now, Open the Government and the Government Accountability Project, two watchdog groups, have found that Caputo broke the law with that order.
According to BuzzFeed News:
‘Caputo, who was HHS’s assistant secretary of public affairs for several months in 2020, warned employees that they would run afoul of written policies in the playbook for dealing with the press if they agreed to media interviews without his approval. “There are no exceptions,” Caputo said in one July 2020 email. He then demanded to know how an HHS official’s interview with NPR was approved and the identity of the press officer who had sanctioned it.’
Seems like any article about Caputo should include this context: https://t.co/fX4oPFQw65
— Heather Sullivan (@hsullivan34) December 13, 2021
Although an attorney with the Office of the Special Counsel has already confirmed that the story is true, Caputo insists there was nothing more than a technicality in his response that’s being criticized, as he failed to notify staffers at the CDC about their rights to be whistleblowers. However, he also violated those staffers’ civil rights and kept the truth about COVID-19 from the public.
‘The groups, which had also obtained their own documents, argued that Caputo’s directives and the public affairs playbook he cited had violated HHS and CDC employees’ free speech rights as well as the anti-gag provision in the 2012 federal Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act, which states that any restriction on employees’ speech has to be accompanied by language informing them of their rights to blow the whistle.’
In a podcast unearthed by Media Matters, HHS spokesperson Michael Caputo spread baseless conspiracy theories about COVID-19, praised white supremacist Milo Yiannopoulos, and said Democrats are “counting” on COVID-19 fatalities in order to win the election https://t.co/JGMYDj3dhS pic.twitter.com/LUUGeXJH1B
— Media Matters (@mmfa) September 2, 2020
While Trump was insisting that reports of the severity of the virus was nothing more than a Democratic “hoax,” Caputo was ensuring that that was the impression the American people got. As a result, a whole lot of Americans have failed to take the virus seriously and continue to refuse to follow CDC guidance on safety measures.
Freddy Martinez, who works as a policy analyst at Open the Government, said that:
‘Documents reviewed by OSC prove that officials at Health and Human Services clamped down on damaging information about the severity of COVID-19 and limited the free speech of its scientists. When creating its press policies, HHS officials disregarded its employees’ important whistleblower rights in favor of secrecy.’
In this piece, Michael Caputo, a political spinner close to Roger Stone who Trump installed at HHS to coordinate a pro-Trump message on Covid-19, comes across as troubled and dangerous. He should not be in an important position related to a pandemic.https://t.co/ULU19RLC0K
— David Corn (@DavidCornDC) September 14, 2020