POLITICS
01/31/2018 10:02 am ET Updated Jan 31, 2018

Head Of CDC Steps Down After Purchasing Tobacco Stocks

The federal agency leads the national fight against smoking.

Brenda Fitzgerald, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, resigned Wednesday after coming under scrutiny for buying shares of a tobacco company while leading the agency.

Fitzgerald also owned stock in various tobacco companies, including Reynolds American, British American Tobacco, Imperial Brands, Philip Morris International and Altria Group, before taking her position, Politico reported Tuesday. The CDC is a national leader in the fight against tobacco.

“Dr. Fitzgerald owns certain complex financial interests that have imposed a broad recusal limiting her ability to complete all of her duties as the CDC director,” CDC spokesman Matt Floyd said in a statement. She “could not divest from them in a definitive time period.”

After assuming her role as the head of the CDC, Fitzgerald also purchased stock in various health care companies including Bayer and Humana, Politico reported. A Health and Human Services Department confirmed “potentially conflicting” stock purchases to Politico and told the outlet Fitzgerald had since sold them.

HHS Secretary Tom Price appointed Fitzgerald, an ob-gyn, last July. Prior to joining the administration, she served as Georgia’s Department of Public Health commissioner from 2011 to 2017. Tobacco cessation was listed as one of her top priorities while she held that role.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story indicated Fitzgerald was appointed by the president. In fact, she was appointed to her CDC role by HHS Secretary Tom Price.

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