NEW YORK — Dr. Thomas Frieden, the former head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was arrested and charged with sexual misconduct charges on Friday.
Frieden, who led the CDC from 2009 to 2017, was charged with forcible touching, sexual abuse, and harassment in connection with an incident at his Brooklyn home in October. He made a brief appearance in a courtroom here and was arraigned, before being released by the court.
Frieden has been accused of grabbing a woman’s buttocks without her permission during the incident, according to an NYPD spokeswoman. A colleague of Frieden’s said the woman was a longtime family friend of the former CDC director and that she had alleged “inappropriate physical contact.”
“I have known and worked closely with Dr. Frieden for nearly 30 years and have seen first-hand that he has the highest ethical standards both personally and professionally,” said the colleague, José L. Castro, the president and CEO of the public health organization Vital Strategies. “In all of my experiences with him, there have never been any concerns or reports of inappropriate conduct.”
A spokesman for Frieden said: “This allegation does not reflect Dr. Frieden’s public or private behavior or his values over a lifetime of service to improve health around the world.”
Frieden, 57, was named to head the CDC by former President Barack Obama. He began his tenure as CDC director in the early days of the 2009 H1N1 pandemic. Prior to taking the top job at the CDC, Frieden had been commissioner of New York City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, where he led an ambitious agenda involving banning trans fats served in food in the city’s restaurants and banning smoking in workplaces and restaurants.
After leaving the CDC he returned to New York and established a new nongovernmental organization working to combat disease outbreaks and chronic diseases globally. The organization, called Resolve to Save Lives, is part of the group Vital Strategies.
Castro said Frieden informed him of the allegations in April. Although the accuser is not an employee of Vital Strategies, the organization launched an investigation into any possible sexual misconduct allegations, Castro said. The assessment determined there had been no incidents of workplace harassment.
“Vital Strategies greatly values the work Dr. Frieden does to advance public health and he has my full confidence,” Castro said.
Resolve is funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies, the charitable foundation run by his former boss, former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. It started with $225 million in funding over five years, including from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
A spokesman for the Gates Foundation said officials there “take allegations of sexual misconduct very seriously” and would contact Vital Strategies “to understand how they are handling this situation.”
Frieden surrendered his passport to court authorities. His next court date was scheduled for Oct. 11.