A Republican Ohio state lawmaker on Thursday was fired from his ER doctor position after asking if “the colored population” may be hit harder by the coronavirus pandemic because they possibly "don’t wash their hands as well as other groups."
“I understand African Americans have a higher incidence of chronic conditions and that makes them more susceptible to death from COVID. But why does it not make them more susceptible to just get COVID?” Huffman asked.
“Could it just be that African Americans or the colored population do not wash their hands as well as other groups? Or wear a mask? Or do not socially distance themselves? Could that be the explanation for why the higher incidence?" he continued.
In a statement, TeamHealth, the health professional contractor that employed Huffman, condemned the rhetoric.
“Dr. Huffman’s comments are wholly inconsistent with our values and commitment to creating a tolerant and diverse workplace,” McHenry Lee, a spokesman for TeamHealth, told The Washington Post. “TeamHealth has terminated Dr. Huffman’s employment.”
Huffman defended himself in comments to the Post, telling the publication that he was "trying to focus on why COVID-19 affects people of color at a higher rate since we really do not know all the reasons."
He added about his choice of language: “People of color would have been better, but they seem to be interchangeable."
Ohio Legislative Black Caucus President Stephanie Howse (D) told the Dayton Daily News his comments underscored systemic racism.
“He highlights what racism is from a [systemic] perspective. He’s a full legislator but beyond that, professionally, he’s a doctor,” Howse said.
“When we talk about the health disparities that happen because black folks aren’t believed when they’re actually hurt, they aren’t given the treatment that they need. Do you think that someone who acknowledges the ‘coloreds’ is going to give the love and care that people need when they come through those doors?” she continued.