Michael R. Caputo, the embattled top spokesman of the cabinet department overseeing the coronavirus response, will take a leave of absence “to focus on his health and the well-being of his family,” the Department of Health and Human Services announced Wednesday.
Mr. Caputo’s science adviser, Dr. Paul Alexander, will be leaving the department.
The announcement came after a bizarre and inflammatory Facebook outburst on Sept. 13 and disclosures that he and his team had tried to water down official reports of the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention about the pandemic.
Mr. Caputo, a long-time Trump loyalist and the Department of Health and Human Services’s assistant secretary of public affairs, had apologized for his Facebook presentation to his staff and to Alex M. Azar II, the department’s leader, after his comments became public.
Since he was installed at the department last April by the White House, Mr. Caputo, a media-savvy former Trump campaign aide, had worked aggressively to develop a media strategy for dealing with the coronavirus pandemic. But critics, including some within the administration, complained that he was promoting the president’s political interests over public health.
His Facebook talk, which was shared with The New York Times, included accusations that government scientists were engaging in “sedition” in their handling of the pandemic and that left-wing hit squads were preparing for armed insurrection after the election.
He also stated in the talk that his “mental health has definitely failed” and that he did not like being alone in Washington where there were “shadows on the ceiling in my apartment, there alone, shadows are so long.”