President-elect Barack Obama has approached CNN’s chief medical correspondent, Sanjay Gupta, to be the country’s next surgeon general, the cable news network said Tuesday.
CNN said it has kept Gupta from reporting on health care policy and other matters involving the incoming Obama administration since learning he was under consideration for the post.
Two Democrats with knowledge of the discussions over the surgeon general spot said Gupta was under consideration but cautioned there was not yet a final decision on who would fill the post. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media on the matter.
Obama’s transition office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Gupta hosts “House Call” on CNN, contributes reports to CBS News, and writes a column for Time magazine. He is a neurosurgeon and is on the faculty at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta. During the Clinton administration, he was a White House fellow and special adviser to then-first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton.
The surgeon general typically isn’t heavily involved in shaping an administration’s policy, but it can be a very effective bully pulpit. Past surgeons general have proved instrumental in battling tobacco and AIDS.
Having such a well-known TV personality could bring the surgeon general attention not seen since C. Everett Koop help the position under President Ronald Reagan. Koop is best known for pushing to make AIDS a public health issue rather than a moral issue, and Reagan faced pressure to fire him. Koop has said Reagan never interfered.
CNN said Gupta would not comment on the discussions and released a statement that said, “Since first learning that Dr. Gupta was under consideration for the surgeon general position, CNN has made sure that his on-air reporting has been on health and wellness matters and not on health care policy or any matters involving the new administration.”