Tom Frieden, the former head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has been arrested following allegations of sexual harassment, sexual abuse, and forcible touching, several news outlets have reported.
Frieden, who led the public health agency for eight years under President Barack Obama, is alleged to have touched and squeezed a woman’s buttocks. The alleged incident took place in Frieden’s Brooklyn apartment in October 2017. Frieden, age 57, was arrested by the New York Police Department on Friday.
The victim is a 55-year-old longtime friend of Frieden and his family, as well as an artist and #MeToo activist. According to the New York Times, the woman wrote an April blog post about “her transition from activist to victim” in the #MeToo movement without naming Frieden, before finally deciding to go to police in July. In the article, she alleged that Frieden groped her while their partners were not looking and then apologized for his behavior.
On Friday, Frieden pleaded not guilty to three charges — two misdemeanors and a noncriminal violation — and surrendered his passport until his next court date of October 11, BuzzFeed reported. He was released without bail, and ordered by a judge to stay away from the victim.
According to José Castro, the president and CEO of Vital Strategies where Frieden works, Frieden told his employer about the allegations in April.
“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 Castro in a statement provided to Vox. “In all of my experiences with him, there have never been any concerns or reports of inappropriate conduct.”
Though the victim is not an employee of the organization, Vital Strategies conducted an investigation into potential patterns of misconduct by Frieden. “This assessment determined there have been no incidents of workplace harassment,” Castro said.
In his tenure at the CDC, Frieden presided over many disease outbreaks, including the 2014 Ebola epidemic and the 2015-2016 Zika epidemic. He has been a frequent Vox source for analysis of public health issues both before and after his posting in the Obama administration. He is a former New York City health commissioner, and is currently the president and CEO of Resolve to Save Lives, a global health nonprofit and initiative of Vital Strategies.