CDC Director Traded Tobacco Stock While Telling Americans Not To Smoke

The head of the Centers for Disease Control bought shares in a tobacco company just one month after starting a new position at the agency that encourages tobacco use reduction, according to a new report by Politico.

Brenda Fitzgerald, the director of the CDC, has come under scrutiny for other conflicts of interest, such as owning stock in five other tobacco companies—Reynolds American, British American Tobacco, Imperial Brands, Philip Morris International and Altria Group.

Fitzgerald previously worked as an obstetrician-gynecologist for 30 years, according to CNBC. While working for the Georgia Department of Public Health as commissioner from 2011 to 2017, she listed tobacco cessation as one of her "primary public health priorities."

Trump's top health official traded tobacco stock while leading anti-smoking efforts https://t.co/95aCkyUOJw via @politico

— Zeke Miller (@ZekeJMiller) January 30, 2018

Buying shares of tobacco companies has led critics to call her behavior "sloppy" at best, and at worst, "legally problematic," according to the Politico report.

"You don't buy tobacco stocks when you are the head of the CDC," Richard Painter, who served as George W. Bush's chief ethics lawyer from 2005 to 2007 told the publication. "It's ridiculous, it gives a terrible appearance."

He continued on to describe her behavior as "tone deaf."

"It stinks to high heaven," Painter said.

Along with her tobacco shares, she also bought shares in healthcare companies including Merck & Co, Bayer and Humana. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services deemed a conflict of interest.

An HHS spokesperson told Politico that the stock purchases were "potentially conflicting."

"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," an HHS spokesperson said. "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."