Among many other things, it was Brenda Fitzgerald's job as director of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to convince people that smoking is bad, but Politico first reported last night that she was trading tobacco stocks even after she became the director.
Buying shares of tobacco companies raises even more flags than Fitzgerald’s trading in drug and food companies because it stands in such stark contrast to the CDC’s mission to persuade smokers to quit and keep children from becoming addicted. Critics say her trading behavior broke with ethical norms for public health officials and was, at best, sloppy. At worst, they say, it was legally problematic if she didn't recuse herself from government activities that could have affected her investments.
Fitzgerald explained herself to Politico by saying her financial account manager "purchased some potentially conflicting stock holdings" without her direction.
You can believe that if you want to, but it may not matter because Fitzgerald has now resigned.
A statement Wednesday from the Department of Health and Human Services said Fitzgerald’s complex financial interests had caused conflicts of interest that made it difficult to do her job. Alex Azar, who was sworn in as head of the department Monday, accepted her resignation.
This is all outrageous but, at the same time, the man with the ultimate conflict of interest is still in the White House.
This culture of corruption starts at the top.