A general view of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) headquarters in Atlanta, Ga., Sept. 30, 2014.
Photo by Tami Chappell/Reuters

Controversial finances force Trump’s CDC director to resign

Updated

From the outset, Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald was an odd choice to lead the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. After Donald Trump appointed her to the important position, we learned, for example, that she’s been accused of practicing “a fringe branch of medicine that promises to reverse the effects of natural aging.”

Making matters slightly worse, when Fitzgerald was Georgia’s health commissioner, she took steps to combat high rates of child obesity by partnering with Coca-Cola.

But Fitzgerald’s real problem was her finances. Not long after she took control over the CDC, it became obvious that Fitzgerald’s investments were interfering with her duties and causing her to recuse herself from key policy areas.

Those investments became far more controversial yesterday when Politico  reported that Fitzgerald bought shares in a tobacco company – after she became CDC director. As Richard Painter, who served as George W. Bush’s chief ethics lawyer, put it, “You don’t buy tobacco stocks when you are the head of the CDC. It’s ridiculous.”

It appears Painter wasn’t the only one who thoughts so. CNBC reported this morning that Fitzgerald is out.

The head of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention resigned Wednesday on the heels of a bombshell report that she had purchased stock in a tobacco company soon after taking her job, which oversees smoking-cessation programs.

Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, who is an ob-gyn, also had owned stock in other tobacco companies prior to assuming her post almost six months ago as one of the nation’s top health officials.

A lengthy delay in Fitzgerald’s divestment of her stock holdings, which included shares in health-care companies, was cited by the Trump administration Wednesday morning as the reason for her resignation.

HHS Secretary Alex Azar confirmed this morning that he’s accepted her resignation, citing Fitzgerald’s “complex financial interests.”

And while this appears to be the appropriate resolution of the controversy, perhaps the White House can explain why Fitzgerald was tapped for this job in the first place? Can Team Trump discuss what kind of vetting process it used when choosing her for this post?

Postscript: The directorship of the CDC is not a Senate-confirmed position. In this case, Trump can’t share the blame with lawmakers since Fitzgerald was appointed, not confirmed.

Update: Jay Bookman reminds me that Newt Gingrich likely played a key role in helping Fitzgerald get the job.