Washington American Red Cross President Bernadine Healy announced her resignation Friday, saying she had been forced out of the job over policy differences with her board.
"The board felt I was out ahead of them making policy," she told reporters at a hastily called news conference. "They didn't have any more confidence in me."
She said the disputes dealt with how the American Red Cross should handle a decision by the International Red Cross to exclude the Israeli branch from membership in the global agency. She said there were also policy differences about how to spend nearly $500 million raised to help the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Asked why she was leaving after just two years and in the immediate aftermath of the attacks, she said, "I had no choice."
David McLaughlin, chairman of the Red Cross board, said the board did not push Healy out. Healy, standing beside McLaughlin, responded, "I don't think that's true."
Healy, 57, one of only two physicians to head the charity, said she would leave Dec. 31. She did not announce any plan beyond that.
Speaking to a ballroom filled with staff and volunteers, Healy said it was difficult to leave.
"Now seems right for new challenges in my own career," she said.
She said her decision to keep money raised in the aftermath of the terror attacks separate from other Red Cross donations was the right one. "I strongly oppose commingling of the moneys with any other Red Cross disaster funds," she said, adding, "Reasonable people can differ."
Healy took the helm of the nation's largest charity on Sept. 1, 1999, succeeding Elizabeth Dole, who resigned to seek the Republican presidential nomination.