CDC Chief Resigns After Her Purchase of Tobacco Stocks Is Revealed

She also held pharmaceutical stocks during her tenure that posed a conflict of interest.

Associated Press

The head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention resigned Wednesday morning after an investigation revealed that she had bought tobacco stocks shortly after assuming a job that put her in charge of promoting health across the country. 

Brenda Fitzgerald, who has led the CDC under President Donald Trump for the past six months, resigned because “certain complex financial interests that have imposed a broad recusal limiting her ability to complete all of her duties as the CDC Director,” Department of Health and Human Services spokesman Matt Lloyd said in a statement on Wednesday. Fitzgerald “could not divest from them in a definitive time period,” Lloyd said.

Fitzgerald’s resignation came a day after a Politico investigation revealed that about a month into her tenure as CDC chief, Fitzgerald bought stock in Japan Tobacco, a major player in the cigarette industry. A day later, she visited the CDC research center devoted to helping Americans quit smoking. Politico reported that in her former role as Georgia’s health commissioner, Fitzgerald spearheaded a campaign to end tobacco use—while holding stocks in tobacco companies. (Georgia ethics rules allow this.)

During her time at the CDC, Fitzgerald also held stock in pharmaceutical companies including Merck and Bayer. Politico notes that those companies were working in areas where the CDC has a vested interest, such as vaccine development and containment of outbreaks.  

This isn’t the first time Fitzgerald’s interests have come under scrutiny. In July, Mother Jones reported on her past private practice as an OB-GYN, when she promoted a controversial anti-aging therapy that the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists does not support. As Georgia’s public health commissioner, she also partnered with Coca-Cola on a campaign to fight obesity. 


Mother Jones was founded as a nonprofit in 1976 because we knew corporations and the wealthy wouldn't fund the type of hard-hitting journalism we set out to do.

Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2019 demands.

We Recommend


Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.


Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.


We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.