Health Official to Take Leave of Absence After He Attacked Federal Scientists

Mr. Caputo, in his Facebook video, also said his mental health was failing, he was under siege by the media and he might end up being killed because of his government role. He defended Dr. Alexander as “a genius,” saying the public criticism of his aide’s actions had only served to solidify his role at the health department.

“They will not move me,” he said. “I’m not going anywhere. You know why? Because the president of the United States supports me. And what I’m doing is good for you and good for your family.”

Kayleigh McEnany, the White House press secretary, dodged a reporter’s question Wednesday about whether the administration would welcome Mr. Caputo back after his leave ends about two weeks after the November election. “I’m not going to weigh into any personnel matters,” she said.

Several high-ranking Democrats this week called for Mr. Caputo’s firing, including Senator Patty Murray of Washington, the ranking Democrat on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, and Representative Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, who leads a subcommittee that controls funding of health programs.

Ryan Murphy, a communications official at the Health and Human Services Department, will fill in for Mr. Caputo, the agency said. Mr. Murphy held the position before the White House dispatched Mr. Caputo to the department in an effort to more carefully monitor and shape what its officials told the media.

Mr. Caputo’s influence was underscored on Wednesday by Dr. Redfield, who told a Senate appropriations subcommittee that the White House Office of Management and Budget and the health department had ordered him to transfer $300 million from his agency’s budget to the department. Of that, $250 million was to be spent on a public-relations campaign directed by Mr. Caputo, a senior health department official said.

Dr. Redfield said that the C.D.C. had not been consulted on the substance of the program. “I would assume that they would want our instruction to do all of that, but we haven’t been involved in this,” he said.

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