Health and Human Services secretary Tommy Thompson resigned Friday, broadening an exodus that has emptied more than half of President Bush's cabinet before he takes the oath of office for a second term. Thompson submitted his resignation to Bush and planned to announce his departure at a Friday afternoon news conference, said an official close to the former Wisconsin governor who asked not to be identified. Mark McClellan, the government's Medicare chief and brother of White House press secretary Scott McClellan, is Thompson's likely successor, officials said. Thompson's resignation brings to eight the number of members of Bush's 15-member cabinet who have left.
Thompson has been a vocal supporter of Bush's push for abstinence-only sex and HIV education programs, and under his watch federal investigators have audited several AIDS service organizations for alleged misuse of government funds for programs that are indecent or promote sexual activity. None of the audits found any such violations. Thompson also earlier this year decided to limit the number of U.S. researchers attending the biennial International AIDS Conference to just 50 people, down from more than 300 who attended the 2002 conference. Thompson said the decision was made to hold down travel costs, but AIDS activists said he was retaliating for being booed and heckled while giving a speech at the 2002 event.
During Thompson's tenure, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also was accused of placing inaccurate information on its Web site claiming that women who undergo abortions are more likely to develop breast cancer. The CDC also removed information from its Web site on the effectiveness of condoms in preventing HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.