One of Obama’s closest friends part of federal probe

One of Obama’s closest friends part of federal probe

May 10th, 2010

BY DAVE McKINNEY, Chicago Sun Times

 Obama with Dr. Eric Whitaker

E-mails and other records of Dr. Eric Whitaker — one of President Obama’s best friends — have been subpoenaed by a federal grand jury, the Chicago Sun-Times has learned.

The investigation involves “faith-based initiatives” and health-awareness campaigns funded by the Illinois Department of Public Health when Whitaker ran the agency for former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, according to copies of subpoenas obtained under the state’s Freedom of Information Act.

Obama has said he recommended Whitaker for that job, which Whitaker landed in April 2003. The president’s friend resigned in October 2007 to join Obama’s wife, Michelle, as an executive at the University of Chicago Medical Center.

On Friday, Whitaker defended his work as the state’s former top health official, saying he developed “new methods” to help “African-American and other minority communities” get better medical care.

“The faith-based outreach programs at issue in this inquiry were recognized during my tenure by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and others as national models for increasing awareness and preparedness planning for minority populations,” Whitaker said in a statement. “The programs were functioning well when I left the department in 2007.”

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