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Emails Detail Effort to Silence C.D.C. and Question Its Science

  • September 18, 2020

For instance, after Mr. Caputo forwarded the critique of Dr. Schuchat to Dr. Redfield, C.D.C. officials became concerned when a member of the health department’s White House liaison office — Catherine Granito — called the agency to ask questions about Dr. Schuchat’s biography, leaving the impression that some in Washington could have been searching for ways to fire her.

In another instance, Mr. Caputo wrote to C.D.C. communications officials on July 15 to demand they turn over the name of the press officer who approved a series of interviews between NPR and a longtime C.D.C. epidemiologist, after the department in Washington had moved to take ownership of the agency’s pandemic data collection.

“I need to know who did it,” Mr. Caputo wrote. A day later, still without a reply, Mr. Caputo wrote back. “I have not received a response to my email for 20 hours. This is unacceptable,” he said. “I need this information to properly manage department communications. If you disobey my directions, you will be held accountable.”

On Wednesday, Mr. Caputo went on leave from the department, just days after he attacked C.D.C. scientists during a bizarre Facebook video in which he predicted armed insurrection after the election and encouraged his followers to stock up on ammunition.

C.D.C. 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,” Mr. Caputo said in the video.

The department also announced that Dr. Alexander would leave the government.

On Friday, a department spokeswoman referred The Times to its Wednesday statement announcing Mr. Caputo’s leave and Dr. Alexander’s departure. She added that Mr. Caputo, in his comments about interview approvals, had been trying to make sure that the C.D.C. followed protocols dating to prior administrations that the department clear interview requests for health officials. The C.D.C. did not have an immediate comment, nor did Mr. Caputo.

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