Biden pick for surgeon general made over $2M on COVID-19 consultations and speaking events: report

President Biden’s pick for surgeon general, Vivek MurthyVivek MurthySunday shows preview: CDC signs off on 'mix and match' vaccine boosters Communities are the front lines in the battle against misinformation Fauci says it's recommended to get same vaccine for COVID-19 boosters MORE, was paid more than $2 million last year for coronavirus-related consulting and speeches, according to ethics documents filed this month obtained by The Washington Post

According to the financial disclosures, Murthy received hundreds of thousands of dollars each in consulting fees from companies such as Netflix, Airbnb and Carnival Cruise Line, among others. 

The filing shared by the Post shows that Murthy made more than $540,000 in consulting fees from Netflix, $410,000 from Airbnb and $400,000 from Carnival.   

ADVERTISEMENT

A Carnival spokesperson confirmed to the Post that Murthy had advised the company "to support our ongoing efforts for developing enhanced protocols and procedures for the return of cruise based in the latest knowledge around protection and mitigation."

Airbnb publicized last year that Murthy and other leading health experts had provided the company assistance in developing its "Enhanced Cleaning Initiative" amid the pandemic. 

Netflix did not respond to the Post's request for comment. 

Murthy, who previously served as surgeon general under former President Obama, also received thousands of dollars from speaking engagements last year at various universities and corporations across the country, according to the documents. 

One of the disclosed speeches was an address at Duke University's ethics institute, for which Murthy was paid $30,000 for the hour-long remarks. 

The documents indicate that Murthy also received more than $5,000 each for speeches at Planned Parenthood, Google and multiple universities and health organizations. 

ADVERTISEMENT

The report on Murthy’s finances comes as he is scheduled to appear at a Thursday Senate confirmation hearing. 

Following his financial disclosures, public health actors and watchdogs pointed out that Murthy could face an obstacle by having the most financial entanglements of any surgeon general pick in recent history. 

Jeff Hauser, who leads the Revolving Door Project, part of progressive think tank the Center for Economic and Policy Research, told the Post that the public “didn’t have a full window into how enmeshed he [Murthy] was in the selling-advice process” before the financial report was released.  

Hauser added, “There are large questions in the minds of the public about the health and safety risks that might exist in areas like the cruise industry, and we want the surgeon general to give people completely impartial advice.” 

The Hill has reached out to Murthy and the White House for comment on the financial disclosures. 

A Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) official in a statement to the Post indicated that the administration is sticking behind Murthy’s nomination. 

“If confirmed to serve for a second time as Surgeon General, Dr. Murthy will provide the public with clear, accurate health information to keep them safe, rooted only in facts and science,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a nominee in advance of his confirmation. 

The HHS official added, “The Biden administration has committed to the highest level of ethics for all nominees, which is critical to earn and keep the public trust, and he has signed a strict and thorough ethics agreement.”

While Murthy is expected to narrowly win confirmation, the financial disclosures could complicate his standing, especially as conservatives have already criticized Murthy due to his repeated advocacy of treating gun violence as a public health issue. 

Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinAngus King: Losing climate provisions in reconciliation bill weakens Biden's hands in Glasgow Independent senator: 'Talking filibuster' or 'alternative' an option Rep. Khanna expresses frustration about Sinema MORE (D-W.Va.), who supports gun rights and voted against Murthy in his first confirmation hearing in 2014, has not yet decided how he will vote on Murthy’s nomination this time around, Manchin spokeswoman Sam Runyon told the Post.

Updated 5:43 p.m.