Current Events : Vaccine official bought dog muzzle she says was sent to her as a threat

Vaccine official bought dog muzzle she says was sent to her as a threat

Tennessee's former top vaccination official, Dr. Michelle Fiscus, told state investigators in July that she received a dog muzzle in the mail, which she deemed to be a threat to keep her quiet.

The muzzle, however, was bought on an Amazon account and with an American Express card in her name, according to a state investigation that concluded Monday.

"There is no evidence to indicate the dog muzzle was intended to threaten Dr. Fiscus," said the report, written by Special Agent Mario Vigil of the state Department of Safety and Homeland Security.

Fiscus, a pediatrician, was the state's medical director of the Vaccine Preventable Disease and Immunization Program. She was fired July 12 in a political firestorm, less than two weeks after, she said, she was mailed the muzzle.

She has said her firing was a political decision to placate lawmakers who disapproved of the Health Department's outreach to vaccinate teenagers against Covid-19.

Fiscus could not be immediately reached for comment Tuesday. She told NBC affiliate WSMV of Nashville that she acknowledges that the muzzle was paid for using an American Express that belongs to her but that she "vehemently denies" buying the muzzle and sending it to herself.

"I've thought about who could be to blame. It's not anything that I have any evidence to show," Fiscus told WSMV. "I think there is just a lot of layers here that … I don't understand."

Fiscus tweeted Monday night that "the state's investigation did NOT conclude I sent the muzzle."

"In fact, it only concluded my credit card was charged with the incorrect billing address – my state work office – to an Amazon account I didn't know existed," she said in the tweet.

"That account was apparently accessed from the State of Washington, where I had never been, by a cell phone using a carrier I have never used," she said in another tweet. "I have asked the state for the full unredacted report and am awaiting a response."
Fiscus said she first thought a colleague had sent her the muzzle as a joke. But when the colleague denied having sent it, Fiscus told investigators that she viewed it as a veiled threat.

"Dr. Fiscus said she felt it was a threat and that she should stop talking about vaccinating people," the report said. "Due to her role in the vaccination program and her authoring a memo on Tennessee's 'Mature Minor' Doctrine that she had been singled out for criticism by some people in the public, as well as several Tennessee Legislators."

A special agent contacted Amazon on July 8 about the muzzle. An Amazon employee told the agent that without a subpoena, he could do only a cursory bar code search. The employee said that based on the search, "the receiver (Dr. Fiscus) was also the sender, but he could not be certain," the report said.

This is CNN.