Trump Administration Broke Law By Silencing Employees - 2021-12-13
The Department of Health and Human Services broke the law last year when it told staff members not to speak with the media during the coronavirus pandemic, a federal watchdog found.
In January, BuzzFeed News published internal agency emails obtained through the Freedom of Information Act showing that Michael Caputo, who had been tapped by President Donald Trump to control messaging around the pandemic, had harshly criticized a CDC spokesperson for speaking to CNN about COVID-19 response plans.
Caputo, who was HHS's assistant secretary of public affairs for several months in 2020, warned employees that they would run afoul of written policies in the playbook for dealing with the press if they agreed to media interviews without his approval. "There are no exceptions," Caputo said in one July 2020 email. He then demanded to know how an HHS official's interview with NPR was approved and the identity of the press officer who had sanctioned it.