Dr. Thomas Frieden, the former head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, settled charges of sexual harassment Tuesday with a guilty plea to a lesser violation.

Frieden, who led the CDC from 2009 to 2017, pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct, striking a deal that will leave him with no criminal record if he stays out of trouble for a year, according to press reports.

Frieden had been charged with forcible touching, sexual abuse, and harassment in connection with a 2017 incident at his Brooklyn, N.Y., home. He was accused of grabbing a woman’s buttocks without her permission during the incident. Frieden pleaded not guilty to those charges in August.


Neither Frieden’s attorney nor his spokesperson responded to requests for comment Tuesday.

Frieden, 58, 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.

Upon leaving the CDC, Frieden founded a 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.

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.

After Frieden’s arrest in August, Vital Strategies said in a statement that it hired an outside expert to conduct “an in-depth interview with every staff member on the Resolve to Save Lives team to determine whether there are any concerns about inappropriate behavior” and found that he had done nothing wrong within the organization.

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  • Tom can contribute a lot to improve world’s health, he is too gentle to handle such funny accusations in this new era. Let him work to improve the health of all, good and bad people. He has tremendous potential to contribute much more in future than in past. Our full support to his long-run ambitions for ‘Good Health’.

  • When one can buy off one’s involvement in perpetuating sexual harassment, is that not very similar to corruption? A legal system that tolerates such “buy-out” deals is running backwards, straight to Wild West mentality.

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