Dr. Thomas Frieden, the former head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was arrested and charged with sexual abuse and harassment on Friday, according to the New York Police Department.
Frieden, who led the CDC from 2009 to 2017, is accused of grabbing a woman’s buttocks without her permission in October at Frieden’s Brooklyn home, according to an NYPD spokeswoman. The woman reported the incident in July, the spokeswoman said.
Frieden was expected to be arraigned at a Brooklyn courthouse on Friday.
A colleague of Frieden’s said the incident involved a longtime friend of the former CDC director and his family who had accused him of “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.