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Red Cross chief quits, says she was forced out

American Red Cross head Bernadine Healy will step down on December 31.  

From Fran Lewine
CNN Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- After a gathering filled with kind words and patriotic songs at which she announced her resignation, Red Cross President Bernadine Healy told reporters Friday she left because "I had no choice."

"I think there were some differences of opinion," Healy said, adding: "I think the board felt I was out ahead of them in some ways."

As Healy spoke with reporters, the board chairman arrived and denied the Red Cross chief was asked to leave.

David McLaughlin, who joined in the exchange with reporters, said the board "did not ask Dr. Healy to leave."

"There were differences on the board," McLaughlin said, but some members supported Healy.

Healy said there were policy issues over how to distribute money from "The Liberty Fund," which collected some $500 million to help victims of the September 11 World Trade Center terrorist attack.

She also acknowledged friction over how the American Red Cross handled a decision by the International Red Cross to exclude the Israeli version of the agency -- the Magen David Adom Society -- from membership in the global agency.

Healy, 57, has headed the national organization for the past two years. She is the former director of the National Institutes of Health and a medical consultant to CBS News.

She is leaving the Red Cross post at the end of the year

McLaughlin said an acting president would be named while a replacement is selected by the board.

'The board is the one who decides'

Earlier, speaking in a ballroom filled with board members and staff who had gathered for what was touted as a chance to "celebrate her accomplishments," Healy said it was hard to leave, but "now seems right for new challenges in my own career."

She later became quite emotional while talking to reporters about why she was leaving.

"I think there were matters of difference as to whether or not a separate fund should be there," she said of the Liberty Fund, "and I respect those differences and the board is the one who decides."

She added that "the board may have felt that I did it without their approval although within a matter of days David (McLaughlin, board chairman) approved it. But it's caused a little bit of friction."

In her speech she made references to both the Israeli Red Cross and the Liberty Fund issues, though she downplayed any serious problems.

Healy plans to write a book on Clara Barton, founder of the American Red Cross, the Red Cross Web site said.

She also will dedicate time being an adviser on weapons of mass destruction preparedness and the threat of bioterrorism.

Healy has held the $450,000-per-year Red Cross job since September 1999. Her predecessor, Elizabeth Dole, held the position for eight years.


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