State Watch

Democrats walk out of confirmation hearing for Florida surgeon general

Florida Democrats refused to participate in a committee vote on Wednesday to advance the confirmation of Joseph Ladapo, whom Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has nominated to be the state’s surgeon general.

“We don’t feel that we’re getting any answers,” state Sen. Lauren Book (D) said after Senate Health Policy Committee members asked questions about vaccines and masks, according to the Tampa Bay Times

“The Florida Senate Democrats in this committee now are going to abstain, walk out and come back when we have more business.”

“What I hear is arrogance and polite avoidance,” added Sen. Janet Cruz (D), according to the Tallahassee Democrat, saying that Ladapo’s answers were “mired in words upon words and nonsense.” 

“This is not a joke,” he added. 

The committee’s Republicans, who hold the majority, still advanced Ladapo’s confirmation. He will undergo one more hearing from another Senate committee before the full state Senate takes up his confirmation.

“I certainly wish them well. I have no ill will towards them and I hope we can work together on issues of public health relevance to Floridians,” Ladapo told reporters, calling the Democrats’ move “unfortunate,” according to the Times.

The candidate to be Florida’s top doctor and leader of the Department of Health has already been the subject of much controversy for his role in the state’s COVID-19 response. 

Earlier this month, he said it was “really time for people to be living, to make the decisions they want regarding vaccination, to enjoy the fact that many people have natural immunity,” despite surging COVID-19 cases in the state. 

In October, he also defended his choice to refuse to wear a mask during a meeting with a state senator who has breast cancer. 

“It is important to me to communicate clearly and effectively with people. I can’t do that when half of my face is covered,” Ladapo said in a statement at the time.

“Having a conversation with someone while wearing a mask is not something I find productive, especially when other options exist,” he added.

Tags florida covid-19 response Joseph Ladapo Joseph Ladapo mask mandates Ron DeSantis vaccine mandates

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