(Reuters) – The top communications official at the U.S. cabinet department in charge of combating the coronavirus told his followers in a Facebook Live session that government scientists were engaging in “sedition” in their handling of the pandemic, the New York Times reported https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/14/us/caputo-virus.html on Monday.
Michael Caputo, assistant secretary for public affairs at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said, without evidence, that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was harboring a “resistance unit” determined to undermine President Donald Trump, according to the newspaper.
Caputo is a former adviser to Trump’s presidential campaign.
Trump is pressing for treatments and a vaccine for the virus ahead of the November presidential election, and some scientists are concerned that drug developers will face political pressure to announce success. Senior administration officials have denied there is political pressure.
News about Caputo’s Facebook Live session comes after Politico https://www.politico.com/news/2020/09/11/exclusive-trump-officials-interfered-with-cdc-reports-on-covid-19-412809 reported over the weekend that Caputo and his team had interfered in the CDC’s weekly scientific reports charting the progress of the pandemic, to down play its severity.
Caputo did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“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 told Reuters in a statement.
(Reporting by Manojna Maddipatla in Bengaluru; Editing by Richard Chang)