By Barry Eitel
SAN FRANCISCO (AA) – The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday she was resigning from the post.
The announcement comes one day after reports that CDC Director Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, who was appointed to the position by President Donald Trump, bought thousands of dollars of stock in tobacco companies a month after she took over the role in July of 2017.
The CDC leads the nation’s anti-smoking campaigns, so the report published in Politico caused critics to say Fitzgerald committed an immense breach of ethics.
The Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees the CDC, confirmed Fitzgerald’s resignation.
“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,” HHS spokesman Matt Lloyd said in a statement.
“Due to the nature of these financial interests, Dr. Fitzgerald could not divest from them in a definitive time period. After advising [HHS] Secretary [Alex] Azar of both the status of the financial interests and the scope of her recusal, Dr. Fitzgerald tendered, and the Secretary accepted, her resignation.”
Azar took over his position just this month.
Fitzgerald did not publically comment on the resignation herself.
The Politico report also revealed Fitzgerald had invested in health insurers like Humana and pharmaceutical companies including Merck and Bayer.
“It is unacceptable that the person responsible for leading our nation’s public health efforts has, for months, been unable to fully engage in the critical work she was appointed to do,” said Democrat Senator Patty Murray, a member of the committee overseeing HHS, in a statement following the resignation.
Once a commissioner for the Georgia Department of Public Health, Fitzgerald was selected for the position by former HHS Secretary Tom Price. Price himself resigned in September of last year due to a scandal resulting from his use of public funds for private airplane trips.
Fitzgerald will be replaced temporarily by Dr. Anne Schuchat, who has worked with the CDC for over a decade, until a permanent replacement is appointed.