WASHINGTON – Michael Caputo, the federal Health and Human Services official who recently took a 60-day leave of absence, has been diagnosed with cancer, according to a spokesman.
Republican New York Assemblyman David DiPietro, who is acting as the Caputo family spokesman, said the Trump administration health official has been diagnosed with "squamous cell carcinoma, a metastatic head and neck cancer which originated in his throat" after undergoing surgery last week at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland.
Caputo, who served as the assistant secretary of public affairs at HHS, "is now home in Western New York, resting in the loving arms of his family, under the watchful eye of Jesus Christ," DiPietro said in a statement first shared with the Buffalo News.
HHS officials announced last week that Caputo, who had been in charge of the administration's coronavirus communications strategy, would be taking time off "to focus on his health and the well-being of his family."
Caputo said last Wednesday that he planned to undergo "necessary screenings for a lymphatic issue discovered last week." He said he initially attributed his weight loss to a new exercise and diet regiment, before realizing something was wrong.
Caputo has faced scrutiny in recent weeks after being accused of trying to manipulate COVID-19 data for political purposes.
His medical leave was announced shortly after he apologized to his staff for a Facebook video in which he reportedly said scientists battling the coronavirus are conspiring against President Donald Trump.
Without offering evidence, Caputo accused scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of "sedition" and falsely claimed they had formed a "resistance unit" against Trump.
Several news outlets also reported that Caputo and scientific adviser Paul Alexander pressured the CDC to change its weekly reports, at times retroactively, to better align with Trump’s public statements about the coronavirus. Trump has repeatedly downplayed the severity of the outbreak.
Trump appointed Caputo – a longtime friend and Republican political operative who had no health care experience but worked on his 2016 campaign – to HHS in April as daily deaths in the U.S. from the coronavirus spiked.
Contributing: William Cummings, USA TODAY; The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Top HHS spokesperson Michael Caputo diagnosed with cancer