Up In Smoke 🚬
The director of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Brenda Fitzgerald, resigned on Wednesday after a tobacco scandal. Politico discovered that Fitzgerald had invested tens of thousands in at least a dozen tobacco companies after taking charge of the CDC.
Is this illegal?
Technically, owning shares in a tobacco company is not illegal, but it is a highly unethical move which will place suspicion on health industry leaders. According to a Washington ethics lawyer, Fitzgerald’s actions were “tone deaf”, since the CDC has a commitment to an anti-smoking agenda. Oops?
The right is focusing on the monetary ‘conflict of interest’ angle, and placing all blame on Fitzgerald for the hypocrisy. They focus on how Fitzgerald wasn’t breaking any laws, and how it is not criminal to own shares in companies, no matter what those companies are. They maintain that her actions are simply unprofessional.
The left spins this on Trump as another example of his “dysfunctional” administration, and their “lax ethical standards”. They highlight past examples of hypocrisy by leaders in the Trump admin, such as Tom Price, former Health and Human Services Secretary, who used taxpayer money to buy personal luxuries and made a questionable stock purchase in a company before introducing a bill that would directly benefit it.
Is Trump at fault?
It's true, several government officials have been caught indulging in unethical practices this past year, but should the blame be placed squarely on Trump’s shoulders? In the case of Tom Price, the administration could have taken more decisive action in investigating Price's use of government funds. In Brenda Fitzgerald’s case, it doesn’t seem justifiable to point the blame directly at Trump for her independent actions outside of the government. However, Trump did appoint Price and Price appointed Fitzgerald. Trump deserves the blame for appointing bad actors and not setting the proper tone in his administration to prevent this type of behavior.
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