Now Hiring: New Director for Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Job location: Atlanta, Georgia.
Medical degree preferred but not required.
Ownership of certain stocks is a disqualifier.

Not sure how this wound up happening or what the decision-making process was, but the Trump administration has lost their director at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald has held the position since last July, but this week Politico revealed that she’d been involved in some stock transactions which were deemed unacceptable. First, she was supposed to divest herself from any investments which might be directly related to her work at the agency but hadn’t managed to complete the process yet. That probably could have been managed in due time, but it was then revealed that she had purchased (and sold) stock in a tobacco company last year after taking the job. That’s obviously something of a no-no at the CDC, at least in principle. (NBC News)

Tobacco claimed another victim Wednesday — President Donald Trump’s pick to head the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald tendered her resignation following a Politico report that she “bought shares in a tobacco company one month into the leadership of the agency.”

“Dr. Fitzgerald owns certain complex financial interests that have imposed a broad recusal limiting her ability to complete all of her duties as the CDC Director,” the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said in a statement. “Due to the nature of these financial interests, Dr. Fitzgerald could not divest from them in a definitive time period.”

So Fitzgerald tendered her resignation, the HHS statement read.

I’m not sure if I’m completely understanding the rush to get her out the door after these disclosures. The failure to divest question is an easy one to accept. If she was heavily invested in various pharmaceutical, bio-medical or other related interests she might have to recuse herself from too many decisions at her agency. But she knew that going in and apparently was okay with offloading her investments. If it took a few months to do so, then so be it.

But the tobacco stock question is just odd. Yes, that was a tone-deaf decision (though it’s alleged the purchase was made by her financial advisor without her knowledge and she’d already sold it). But it also doesn’t sound like a disqualifier if she was already divested of it. Even if there are upcoming decisions made regarding tobacco products, she wouldn’t have had to recuse herself if she no longer held the stock.

Or was there something else being implied here? If she was planning to roll back any of the regulations currently in place on cigarettes and related products that would probably boost the stock of all those companies immediately. But at a quick glance, I don’t see anything about new, looser tobacco regulations in the pipeline.

If it’s none of that, was it just the optics? Having someone willing to allow their retirement fund to be invested in a tobacco company clearly doesn’t send the right sort of message when the CDC is still working to get people to stop smoking, granted. But is it a firing/retiring offense? Not to be too cheeky about it, but since when has President Trump really gotten all that bent out of shape over optics or cared what the critics might say? Either she was doing her job properly and not breaking any rules or she wasn’t. Either way, it’s a bit late to debate those details now since she’s already packed up and left.