'Helping the president': HHS official sought to rebrand coronavirus campaign - 2020-10-09
The official overseeing the campaign — Michael Caputo, who Trump personally tapped as the health department's top spokesperson — also sought to overrule the career civil servants assigned to the campaign, directly urging contractors to rush production of ads with celebrities like Trump-supporting actor Antonio Sabato, Jr.
"We must film them ASAP — we need content in the can now," Caputo wrote in an email to contractors on Sept. 13, three days before he took a medical leave from the health department. A federal official subsequently removed Caputo from the email chain and reiterated that only two career civil servants on the chain could provide "actionable direction" to the contractors on how to proceed.
Caputo also pitched the idea of framing the ad campaign around helping the president. He made the suggestion in a meeting with communications firm Burson Cohn & Wolfe, positioning it as an effort to encourage Trump's base to buy into public health concepts like wearing masks, according to notes dated Sept. 17 and provided to the committee. "Caputo speaks in 'taglines,' and high level concepts," the contractors noted.