Trump acolyte Michael Caputo, now a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services, yelled at journalists Wednesday for their coverage of the administration’s ending support for 13 coronavirus testing sites around the country.
The story was broken by TPM on Tuesday.
Caputo’s outburst left some reporters stunned.
“Weirdest ending to an HHS call ever,” wrote the Washington Post’s Paige W. Cunningham. “Ended w @MichaelRCaputo yelling at a reporter for their story on coronavirus testing sites: ‘You’ve been spun up, someone had given you disinformation…the people who told you this are undermining the public health system.'”
TPM first reported that the administration would end its support for “community-based testing sites,” including 7 in Texas, where COVID cases are hitting new highs. The director of emergency management in Dallas told TPM that a request to extend the federal support beyond June 30 was refused.
CNBC reported that Caputo’s tirade led to “the abrupt termination of the call.” Caputo said journalists had gotten “spun.”
“The reason why we put this call together so quickly and why we have upwards of 75 reporters on this call is because you’ve been spun up,” he said, according to CNBC. (TPM was not on the call.)
“Somebody has given you disinformation,” he added, per CNBC. “Do you understand? I’m old enough to remember it was considered dishonest to undermine public confidence in the public health system.”
“I found the whole thing highly disturbing,” the freelancer Alicia Ault said afterward. “It was unprofessional, rude and somewhat unhinged.”
“[W]as that directed at the NPR reporter?” The Hill’s Nathaniel Weixel wondered after the call Wednesday. “I thought he was yelling at all of us.”
“He was definitely yelling at all of us,” responded Robert King, of the health care industry news website FierceHealthcare.
Caputo began as an HHS spokesperson in April. He worked for President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign and is known for his aggressive style. Earlier this year CNN cataloged Caputo’s many derogatory tweets.
“I urge you, and I’m on the record with you, to call them back and ask them why are they working to undermine the public health system in the middle of a pandemic,” Caputo said, per CNBC. “Please report this accurately. Thank you very much.”
“OMG,” reacted Miya Shay of the Houston-based ABC13. She asked a fellow reporter “if that anger is normal?
“They are really mad that media is reporting the Feds are pulling out of local #covid19 testing.”