• Caputo is a longtime Trump loyalist
  • He said he's been under stress due to health concerns and threats against him and his family
  • He apologized for his Sunday rants on Tuesday

Michael Caputo, a spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services, will take a leave of absence following a Facebook rant that accused government scientists of plotting against President Trump’s reelection and a series of tweets saying all protesters should be gassed.

The HHS issued a press release Wednesday announcing Caputo’s “temporary leave of absence to focus on the health and well-being of his family."

Caputo, 58, is a longtime Trump loyalist and former campaign aide, who has been working to control the administration’s pandemic media strategy. He told staff he was under stress because of health concerns and threats to the safety of himself and his family.

Caputo apologized Tuesday to HHS Secretary Alex Azar and his staff for the rant, during which had also accused government scientists working on the pandemic of sedition and warned left-wing hit squads were poised to attack.

Reports by several publications — Politico and the New York Times are among several outlets that covered the rant — indicated Caputo and aide Paul Alexander routinely revised, delayed and blocked information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to put the administration’s pandemic response into a more favorable light.

The Times reported Caputo characterized government scientists as anti-Trumpers in his Sunday rant, saying they had formed a “resistance unit” and engaged in “rotten science,” plotting against the president.

He urged his followers to buy guns now before leftists start attacking.

“If you carry guns, buy ammunition, ladies and gentlemen, because it’s going to be hard to get,” he said.

The Times also quoted Caputo as saying: “You understand that they’re going to have to kill me, and unfortunately, I think that’s where this is going.”

On Twitter, Caputo said "gas them all" in reference to racial justice protesters. On Monday, he took down his Twitter account.

Months before his rant, Caputo was the subject of controversy. In April, he took to Twitter to call several women "dogface" and made since-deleted tweets that were racist against Chinese people. Before joining the HHS, he directed sexist comments at former FBI attorney Lisa Page.

A longtime associate of Trump political strategist Roger Stone, Caputo previously served as an adviser to former Russian President Boris Yeltsin and also worked for a Russian media group that sought to strengthen the image of Vladimir Putin in the U.S.