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Former CDC director arrested, charged with sexual misconduct

The high-profile former health official is accused of groping a long-time acquaintance.

NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 24: Tom Frieden, former Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, exits Brooklyn Criminal Court following his arrest on sex abuse charges, August 24, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 24: Tom Frieden, former Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, exits Brooklyn Criminal Court following his arrest on sex abuse charges, August 24, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Tom Frieden, who headed the Centers for Disease Control during the Obama administration, was arrested in New York City on Friday after being accused of sexual misconduct.

Frieden, who is best known for leading the government’s response to the 2014 Ebola outbreak and currently is the CEO of public health start-up Resolve, turned himself in to police on Friday morning.

New York Police Department detective Sophia Mason told NPR that the accusations against the former public health official stem from an October 2017 incident at his home in which Frieden allegedly “grabbed a victim’s buttocks without her permission.”

The woman in question, apparently a decades-long acquaintance of Frieden’s, reported the matter to police in July. Frieden has been charged with third-degree sexual abuse and forcible touching — both misdemeanors — as well as harassment, a violation.

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According to reports, Frieden was arraigned in Brooklyn Criminal Court yesterday, where he entered a not-guilty plea and was released on his own recognizance after surrendering his passport. Frieden will submit to an order of protection that forbids him from having any contact with his accuser.

Beyond entering a not-guilty plea, Frieden has yet to offer an explicit denial of the charges. According to a statement offered up by a spokesperson on Frieden’s behalf, “The 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.”

As the Huffington Post’s Lauren Weber reported, Frieden disclosed that a “non-work-related friend of his and his family of more than 30 years accused him of inappropriate physical contact,” to José Castro, the CEO of Resolve’s parent company, Vital Strategies.

Castro has, in the wake of Frieden’s arrest, offered his “full confidence” in the former CDC director. Officials at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative — key underwriters of Resolve — have issued similar statements, professing to take the accusations seriously and monitor the situation closely.

Frieden, best known for leading successful public health responses to the 2014 Ebola outbreak and the 2009 H1N1 swine flu pandemic, also served as New York City’s health commissioner, where he led Bloomberg-era initiatives to curb smoking and ban trans fats from the city’s restaurants. His next court appearance is scheduled for October 11.