Dr. Vivek Murthy, who was surgeon general under former President Barack Obama, famously advised President Joe Biden on the coronavirus pandemic during the presidential campaign. And during that time, he also ran a very lucrative business as a COVID-19 consultant for the private sector, reveals the Washington Post. Murthy, who has been nominated to take on the role as surgeon general again, made millions consulting for the likes of Carnival cruise lines, Airbnb, and others. He also made hundreds of thousands of dollars in speaking fees, according to ethics documents he filed last month. Murthy’s Senate confirmation hearing is scheduled for Thursday.
Murthy’s ethics documents raised more than a few eyebrows with some experts saying that he “has the most financial entanglements of any surgeon general pick in recent history,” notes the Post. Some are questioning whether he could really be trusted as a spokesperson on how the country should respond to the pandemic and as an adviser to the president considering his financial interests. “We didn’t have a full window into how enmeshed he was in the selling-advice process,” Jeff Hauser, who leads the Revolving Door Project at the progressive think tank the Center for Economic and Policy Research, told the Post. One question that Murthy’s past work raises, for example, is whether he could really give impartial advice on the safety of going on a cruise during a pandemic.
Murthy is expected to win confirmation by a narrow margin but any questions about potential conflicts of interest could derail an already tight vote. Conservatives are largely opposed to Murthy because of his insistence that gun violence should be treated as a public health issue. Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin still hasn’t said how he will vote on Murthy’s confirmation, although he voted against him after his 2014 confirmation hearing.