Jan. 31 (UPI) -- The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention -- who'd been in the post for just over six months -- abruptly resigned Wednesday following reports of a conflict of interest.
Questions about the possible conflict involving CDC Director Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald emerged Tuesday, after reports that she bought shares in tobacco, drug and food companies last year, about a month into the job. She became CDC director last July.
The Department of Health and Human Services announced Wednesday that Fitzgerald tendered her resignation to Secretary Alex Azar because she "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," department spokesman Matt Lloyd said. "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. The secretary thanks Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald for her service and wishes her the best in all her endeavors."
Some have criticized Fitzgerald for the investment in tobacco companies, which is at odds with the CDC's mission to persuade smokers to quit and keep children from becoming addicted.
Richard Painter, former President George W. Bush's chief ethics lawyer, described the move as "tone deaf."
"You don't buy tobacco stocks when you are the head of the CDC. It's ridiculous; it gives a terrible appearance," Painter told Politico.