DeSantis’ pick for FL surgeon general likely to face heat at first confirmation hearing

By: - January 25, 2022 7:28 pm

Dr. Joseph Ladapo (at right) told Tucker Carlson on Jan. 20 that face masks “dehumanize” people. Screenshot of Twitter post by Dr. Ladapo

A hearing that likely will vent all the fury of COVID politics in Florida is set for Wednesday in the state Senate, when Dr. Joseph Ladapo will appear before a panel judging his nomination by Gov. Ron DeSantis to continue serving as the state’s surgeon general.

Ladapo has held the post since Sept. 21.

The nominee faces tough scrutiny by Democrats, including Sen. Janet Cruz, a Tampa Democrat who issued a statement Tuesday saying, “Dr. Ladapo has proven time and time again that data and science are not top of mind when making decisions about the health and wellness of Floridians.”

She said the state needs a surgeon general who will “use constructive common sense above destructive, divisive decision-making.”

Cruz is among four Democrats and six Republicans on the Senate Health Policy Committee, which Cruz predicts will vote on party lines to approve Ladapo’s nomination Wednesday as desired by the governor, advancing him to a yet-unscheduled review before the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee and ultimately to the full Senate.

The other Democrats are Senate Democratic leader Lauren Book of Broward County, and Senators Bobby Powell and Shevrin Jones, members of the Legislative Black Caucus.

The Republicans are committee chairman Manny Diaz and Senators Jason Brodeur, Ben Albritton, Dennis Baxley, Aaron Bean and Ileana Garcia. Three of those – Baxley, Bean and Garcia – also are members of the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee, which Baxley chairs.

Ladapo has been condemned by some of Florida’s leading editorial boards as a poor choice to lead the nation’s third largest state through the ongoing COVID pandemic.

He took part in an event recorded in July 2020 in which he and others, wearing white lab coats emblazoned with the title “America’s Frontline Doctors,” promoted the use of now-discredited hydroxychloroquine as a cure for the virus, as described in a profile by USA Today.

Ladapo, whose last medical post was the University of California Los Angeles’ flagship hospital, has endorsed the use of numerous chemicals and drugs not approved by the Food and Drug Administration for treating COVID.

On Tuesday, Ladapo stood with DeSantis to denounce the Food and Drug Administration’s decision to halt the use of Regeneron and Lilly monoclonal antibody therapies because they are not effective against the omicron variant, as reported by the drug manufacturers.

When DeSantis said there was no evidence to support the FDA’s decision, the nominated surgeon general did not correct him. Ladapo’s press officer did not reply to Phoenix questions about whether Ladapo vetted the therapy before allowing it to be administered in Regeneron clinics set up this month by DeSantis around the state.

Five days ago, Ladapo appeared on a national opinion show where he said face masks “basically dehumanize the U.S. population” and that wearing them as recommended by national experts to slow the spread of coronavirus causes “tremendous harm.”

Ladapo made national headlines in October when he refused to wear a face mask in the office of state Sen. Tina Polsky, a Palm Beach County Democrat, despite her asking him to do so. Polsky was undergoing cancer treatment at the time.

Polsky is a member of the Ethics and Elections Committee that will review Ladapo’s nomination in the near future.

On Nov. 30, the Miami Herald Editorial Board blasted Ladapo and other unconventional doctors who endorse unapproved therapies but do not promote therapies and practices prescribed by the nation’s preeminent infectious-disease experts.

“Of course, Florida’s Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo has endorsed hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19— discredited by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration — preaches herd immunity as our way out of the pandemic and has pushed ivermectin, an anti-parasitic drug as a COVID-19 treatment. Of course, the medication is not approved for such use. But many people took it anyway, including the version used for livestock, leading to a surge in poison-control-centers calls in the state,” the Herald board wrote.

“Ladapo abhors mask mandates and refused to wear one while in the office of a state senator who’s also a cancer patient. With bona fides like this, he’s a cinch to be confirmed by Florida’s Republican-led Legislature. Plus, it’s Gov. Ron DeSantis’ will.”

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Laura Cassels
Laura Cassels

Laura Cassels is a reporter, former statehouse bureau chief, and former city editor. She is a classical pianist, a Florida State University graduate and proud alum of the Florida Flambeau, an independent college newspaper.