Update (9/16/20 1:40 p.m.): Following comments reported by The New York Times in which Caputo accused CDC scientists of “sedition” against President Trump, CBS' Steven Portnoy reports Caputo “has decided to take a leave of absence” for 60 days.
On an official Department of Health and Human Services podcast titled The Learning Curve, HHS spokesperson and far-right personality Michael Caputo attacked his own department’s recommended policies to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus, downplayed the threat of the virus spreading in schools, and blamed the media for the pandemic.
Caputo has recently come under fire for suppressing public health information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suggesting there will be an “armed revolt” if Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden wins the election, and praising white supremacists and promoting COVID-19 conspiracy theories on his own now-defunct podcast.
In a September 8 conversation with Dr. Elinore McCance-Katz, the assistant secretary for mental health and substance use at HHS, both Caputo and his guest attacked the idea of continuing mitigation efforts to stop the spread of the coronavirus. McCance-Katz was appointed to the newly created position by President Donald Trump in 2017, and her opposition to continuing lockdowns has been reported multiple times in the press.
She explicitly repeated these views on the podcast with Caputo, downplaying COVID-19 “which in most people, by the way, is a mild to asymptomatic disease if you are below ages 45 and younger” and claiming that “the people who make these decisions” about mitigation efforts -- including her colleagues at HHS -- are “taking away anything that makes people happy” and are guided in their recommendations by being “fairly affluent.” Caputo agreed, saying that officials are taking “even human contact” away from people.
Later in the interview, McCance-Katz said that “for the great, great majority of children, this is not a serious illness” and questioned “this nonsense that somehow it’s unsafe to return to school.” Caputo replied that closing schools because of the coronavirus is “political.”
Caputo also asked: “What are parents supposed to do to save their children” from mitigation efforts “that have nothing to do with the virus?”
Caputo claimed the media doesn’t “give a damn about public health information” on the coronavirus and is “causing terrible, terrible impacts,” and said the media “have no interest” in a vaccine or treatments for COVID.”