Politico reported on December 16 that a top Trump appointee at the Department of Health and Human Services repeatedly urged top officials to adopt a “herd immunity” approach to the coronavirus pandemic and allow millions of Americans to become infected.
That appointee, Paul Alexander, reported to former Health and Human Services assistant secretary for public affairs Michael Caputo, who was personally installed in the position by President Donald Trump.
Both Alexander and Caputo have since left the department, Politico reported.
“There is no other way, we need to establish herd, and it only comes about allowing the non-high risk groups expose themselves to the virus. PERIOD,” then-science adviser Paul Alexander wrote on July 4 to his boss, Health and Human Services assistant secretary for public affairs Michael Caputo, and six other senior officials.
“[I]t may be that it will be best if we open up and flood the zone and let the kids and young folk get infected” in order to get “natural immunity…natural exposure,” Alexander wrote on July 24 to Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Hahn, Caputo and eight other senior officials. Caputo subsequently asked Alexander to research the idea, according to emails obtained by the House Oversight Committee’s select subcommittee on coronavirus.
Because Alexander was a top deputy of Caputo, and Caputo was installed by Trump to lead the department’s communications efforts, officials believed that Alexander’s recommendations were supported by the White House.
“It was understood that he spoke for Michael Caputo, who spoke for the White House,” said Kyle McGowan, a Trump appointee who was CDC chief of staff before leaving this summer. “That’s how they wanted it to be perceived.”
Alexander did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Caputo, who took medical leave the same day that Alexander left the department, has referred previous inquiries to HHS.
When Caputo was tapped to lead HHS’s communications efforts in April, Business Insider noted that the Trump loyalist previously worked for a Russian state-owned energy company as a public relations consultant.
Caputo is a veteran Republican strategist and communications consultant, who moved to Russia in the 1990s after the breakup of the Soviet Union, where he worked for the US government.
He later served as a PR adviser to a subsidiary of Gazprom, a state-owned Russian energy company.
In testimony to the House Intelligence Committee last December he denied that he had worked as an “image consultant” to Vladimir Putin.
Also a conspiracy theorist, Caputo published a book in February “in which he claimed that both the Russia probe and the Ukraine investigation that resulted in Trump’s impeachment last year were part of a plot to “enrich global insiders like Hunter Biden, George Soros, and more.”
Image credit: Screengrab / MSNBC / YouTube