Speed Reads

The 'shadows are so long'

Trump's COVID-19 messaging chief vents conspiracy theories, says his 'mental health has definitely failed'

Michael Caputo, the controversial communications chief at the Department of Health and Human Services, unleashed some bizarre, false conspiracy theories in a Facebook Live chat on his personal account Sunday night, The New York Times reported Monday. Caputo confirmed the details of his comments to The Washington Post and CNN, and deactivated his social media accounts Monday.

In his Facebook livestream, Caputo accused career government scientists of "sedition" and said left-wing "hit squads" being trained to rise up against President Trump will probably kill him. He claimed baselessly that a "resistance unit" of scientists "deep in the bowels" of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention meets "at coffee shops" to plot "how they're going to attack Donald Trump next."

Caputo also attacked the news media and Democrats, predicting Trump will win but Joe Biden won't concede, "and when Donald Trump refuses to stand down at the inauguration, the shooting will begin," he warned. "The drills that you've seen are nothing. If you carry guns, buy ammunition, ladies and gentlemen." He claimed his family is being verbally threatened, his "mental health has definitely failed," and he doesn't "like being alone in Washington," describing "shadows on the ceiling in my apartment, there alone, shadows are so long."

Trump installed Caputo, a 58-year-old New York public relations specialist and Trump 2016 campaign alumnus, in April, opting to put a longtime loyalist in charge of COVID-19 messaging instead of firing HHS Secretary Alex Azar "over a series of damaging stories about Trump's handling of the pandemic," the Post repots. Caputo immediately exerted tight control over the public appearances of public health officials and has recently come under scrutiny for successfully demanding access to and revising the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports, allegedly adding a Trump-friendly gloss to core health bulletins previously "so thoroughly shielded from political interference that political appointees only saw them just before they were published," the Times reports.

"Caputo is viewed as a Trump loyalist, but several White House officials said his behavior has been erratic and some of his ideas have been regarded as extreme," the Post reports. His inflammatory comments on Facebook echo those by Trump and another longtime ally, Roger Stone, the Times notes. Caputo's job is believed to be safe.