Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), speaks during a House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis hearing in Washington, D.C., July 31, 2020.
Erin Scott | Pool | Reuters
Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said he was “deeply saddened” by remarks made earlier this week by Trump appointee Michael Caputo, who reportedly said CDC scientists were engaged in “sedition” against President Donald Trump.
Caputo, a former Trump campaign official, made the comments in a Facebook Live event broadcast through his personal Facebook page on Sunday, The New York Times first reported. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., asked Redfield to respond to the comments in a hearing hosted Wednesday by the Senate Committee on Appropriations.
Caputo was installed at the Department of Health and Human Services earlier this year as the top spokesman in an action seen as a move by the Trump administration to better align health messaging with that of the White House.
“The spokesperson for HHS claimed that there is a resistance unit at CDC and voiced concerns about ulterior Deep State motives and President Trump has bolstered skepticism in the agency’s death toll,” Murray said. “Do you agree with me that there is no truth to all those claims?”
Redfield responded that “not only is it not true, it deeply saddened me when I read those comments.”
“CDC is made up of thousands of dedicated men and women, highly competent. It is the premier public health agency in the world, dedicated 24/7 to using their skills to protect the American public and the world from the health issues,” he continued. “And it deeply saddened me that those false accusations were made by a group of really unbelievably professional people that serve this nation.”
At a meeting with HHS staff members on Tuesday, Caputo reportedly apologized for his remarks. Caputo’s comments came after reports last week that he and his allies at HHS were interfering with internal CDC affairs, including the publication of CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports. Those reports serve as main channel through which the CDC communicates with physicians and public health specialists across the country.
“At no time has the scientific integrity of the MMWR been compromised, and I can say that under my watch it will not be compromised,” Redfield said Wednesday of the reports. “I’m willing to commit that we’re going to continue to give Congress and the nation the best public health advice. We’re not going to let political influence modulate that.”
Representatives of HHS did not immediately return CNBC’s request for comment.