Trump’s Top Health Official Brenda Fitzgerald Bought Shares In Big Tobacco
UPDATE: Fitzgerald has resigned her position at the CDC following reports of her tobacco investments, notes CNN.
Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reportedly bought shares in a tobacco company one month into her top health position.
Documents from the HHS’ Office of Government Ethics show that on July 7, 2016, Fitzgerald bought between $1,001 and $15,000 in stock of Japan Tobacco, which sells four tobacco brands in the U.S., notes POLITICO.
Fitzgerald sold the tobacco stock on Oct. 26, more than four months after she became CDC director.
Before Fitzgerald became the CDC director, she owned stock in other tobacco companies: Reynolds American, British American Tobacco, Imperial Brands, Philip Morris International and Altria Group, Inc.
Richard Painter, who served as George W. Bush’s chief ethics lawyer from 2005 to 2007, told POLITICO:
You don’t buy tobacco stocks when you are the head of the CDC. It’s ridiculous, it gives a terrible appearance… it stinks to high heaven.
Painter described the investment as “tone deaf.”
An HHS spokesman confirmed “the potentially conflicting” stock purchases:
Like all presidential personnel, Dr. Fitzgerald’s financial holdings were reviewed by the HHS Ethics Office, and she was instructed to divest of certain holdings that may pose a conflict of interest.
During the divestiture process, her financial account manager purchased some potentially conflicting stock holdings. These additional purchases did not change the scope of Dr. Fitzgerald’s recusal obligations, and Dr. Fitzgerald has since also divested of these newly acquired potentially conflicting publicly traded stock holdings.
Fitzgerald refused to be interviewed for this story.