Maya Yang reports:
A former Tennessee government official who was fired amid controversy over vaccine access for teenagers has denied sending herself a dog muzzle. She told authorities the muzzle was delivered anonymously, possibly as a warning to be quiet, after investigators determined it was ordered using her own credit card.
Dr Michelle Fiscus was previously the state medical director of vaccine-preventable diseases and immunization. She was fired in July, after sharing a memo that cited a state law about whether adolescents can obtain medical care, including Covid-19 vaccines, without parental permission.
The memo led Republican lawmakers to question whether Fiscus was challenging parental authority. She was fired over alleged failures to maintain good working relationships, ineffective leadership and management of the state’s vaccine program, and alleged attempts to steer state money to a nonprofit she founded.
In response, Fiscus shared years of stellar performance evaluations and claimed her firing was politically motivated. Fiscus said she received the muzzle a week before her firing. Muzzles are used to stop dogs biting animals or people.
According to Fiscus, the muzzle was sent anonymously to her office through Amazon. Fiscus said she contacted Amazon to figure out the sender but the company refused to disclose the identity.
“At first, I thought that was a joke and contacted a few friends, and then, when no one claimed it, I realised that that was something that was sent to me as some kind of a message,” she said.
Fiscus reported the incident to the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security. She also told her husband: “They obviously didn’t know me, because they sent me a size three which is for beagles and I’m obviously a pit bull, which requires a size six.”
On Monday, a TDSHS report found that the muzzle was paid for with Fiscus’s credit card.
“Based on the information provided to us by Amazon via subpoena, and on information derived from interviews, there is no evidence to indicate that the dog muzzle was intended to threaten Dr Fiscus,” special agent Mario Vigil wrote.
In response, Fiscus tweeted: “I asked Homeland Security to investigate the origin … Hold tight. No, I didn’t send it to myself.”