Official Leading Anti-Smoking Push Resigns After Buying Tobacco Stock

Now former CDC head Brenda Fitzgerald. Photo: Branden Camp/AP

Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald resigned Wednesday morning as the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention less than a full day after Politico reported that she purchased stock in a tobacco company shortly after assuming the post in July.

During her time at the CDC, Fitzgerald’s investments were a consistent issue, often forcing her to recuse herself from testimony because of potential conflicts of interest. Senators from both parties criticized her apparent unwillingness to divest, leading Fitzgerald earlier this month to promise to work on getting rid of the financial holdings.

But Politico’s revelation that she invested in a tobacco company after assuming a role in which she is supposed to fight smoking has apparently sunk Fitzgerald. A statement from the Department of Health and Human Services made no mention of Fitzgerald’s investment in Japan Tobacco, which sells several brands of cigarettes in the U.S., including Winston and Camel.

“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. Due to the nature of these financial interests, Dr. Fitzgerald could not divest from them in a definitive time period. After advising Secretary Azar of both the status of the financial interests and the scope of her recusal, Dr. Fitzgerald tendered, and the Secretary accepted, her resignation,” an HHS spokesperson said in a statement.

A former Georgia Department of Public Health commissioner, Fitzgerald came to the CDC under former HHS director Tom Price, a fellow Georgian. Now she leaves the federal government much as Price did, under a cloud of scandal.

CDC Head Resigns After Buying Tobacco Stock