▶ Watch Video: Michael Caputo’s comments about scientists and conspiracies raise concerns

Washington — Michael Caputo, the top communications official at the Department of Health and Human Services, will take a medical leave of absence for two months, the department announced on Wednesday, days after Caputo baselessly claimed that government scientists are withholding effective COVID-19 treatments to hurt President Trump’s reelection bid.

“Today, the Department of Health and Human Services is announcing that HHS Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs Michael Caputo has decided to take a leave of absence to focus on his health and the well-being of his family. Mr. Caputo will be on leave for the next 60 days,” the department said in a statement.

Caputo, who was an official on the Trump campaign in 2016, told CBS News earlier this week that he had no intention of taking time off.

In a Facebook Live session on Sunday, Caputo claimed that “there are hit squads being trained all over this country” to deny the president a second term. He baselessly claimed that Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) scientists “haven’t gotten out of their sweatpants except for meetings at coffee shops” to plot “how they’re going to attack Donald Trump next.”

“There are scientists who work for this government who do not want America to get well, not until after Joe Biden is president,” he said on the video, which was first reported by The New York Times.

Caputo told the Facebook audience that dealing with the virus has been difficult for him, and said his “mental health has definitely failed.” But he told CBS News on Monday that “failed” was too strong a word, and “challenged” might have been more accurate. He went on to say that his mental health was “strong.”

House Democrats are investigating allegations that Caputo and his team have tried to retroactively alter CDC reports they claimed incorrectly inflated the risks of the coronavirus, and tried to stop the release of others, including one that discussed how doctors were prescribing hydroxychloroquine, an antimalarial drug touted by President Trump as a treatment for the coronavirus. The Food and Drug Administration revoked an emergency use authorization for the drug to treat COVID-19 in June.  

Weijia Jiang contributed reporting.

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