The top spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services deleted his Twitter in the aftermath of a late-night rant in which he suggested tear gassing journalists and battled with other users on the social media platform.
Michael Caputo, who was using his verified Twitter account, reportedly commented “gas all of them” in response to a post by a self-described journalist who posted a video saying they were about to be tear-gassed. In another post, Caputo referred to another user on the social media site as a feminine hygiene product and mocked that person by saying “you have four followers.”
By Monday afternoon, the personal Twitter account for Caputo, the assistant secretary for public affairs at the Health and Human Services Department, displayed a message saying “This account doesn’t exist.”
“Mr. Caputo is 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,” HHS said in an emailed comment to Bloomberg, which first reported on the matter.
Caputo, who is former campaign aide to President Trump, is currently the subject of a House subcommittee investigation into whether political appointees have meddled with routine government scientific data to better align with Trump’s public statements about the coronavirus pandemic
The Democrat-led subcommittee said Monday that it is requesting transcribed interviews with seven officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and HHS, including Caputo. Caputo has often publicly pushed back on CDC statements about the coronavirus and said falsely in a Facebook video on Sunday that the CDC has a “resistance unit” against Trump, according to The New York Times. His Facebook page has since been made private.
According to a report in Politico, Caputo, along with scientific adviser Paul Alexander, pressured officials to alter the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports, a long-running weekly journal that features the latest science-based research and data on infectious diseases. Known as MMWR, the report has long been a sacred government information resource for doctors, scientists and researchers tracking outbreaks.
The officials pressured CDC to change the reports, at times retroactively, to better align them with Trump’s often rosier public statements about the coronavirus, Politico reported.
In a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and CDC Director Robert Redfield, the Democratic members of the subcommittee said they are “gravely concerned” about the reports of political meddling in a journal that has long been free of political interference.
“With nearly 200,000 Americans killed and hundreds more dying each day from the coronavirus pandemic, the public needs and deserves truthful scientific information so they can keep themselves and their families healthy,” the Democrats wrote.
The panel is also demanding documents from the department, including communications sent or received by Redfield, Azar, Caputo and Alexander regarding the MMWR and other matters.
According to Politico, Caputo and Alexander complained about a report that explained children can transmit the coronavirus and Alexander asked the CDC to alter it or pull it down, saying the report could impact school reopening and hurt Trump politically.
In the Facebook Live video, reported by The New York Times, Caputo warned that left-wing hit squads would engage in armed insurrection after the election and said officials were engaging in “sedition” as they handled the pandemic. “You understand that they’re going to have to kill me, and unfortunately, I think that’s where this is going,” Caputo said, according to the Times.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.