Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo was confirmed to his position Wednesday, as Senate Republicans approved the nomination of the state’s top doctor over criticism that his opposition to coronavirus mandates is too aligned to the politics of Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Ladapo, who was appointed by DeSantis in September, has drawn intense scrutiny over his shared resistance with the governor to COVID-19 mandates for vaccines and masks and other health policies endorsed by the federal government.
“People have opinions, I know that things have been pretty politically charged, but I want to assure everyone that I’m really passionate about health, good health,” Ladapo told reporters after his confirmation. “I’ve been consistently talking good health from the beginning of the pandemic, holistically and not in one particular lane, so that’s what I’ll continue doing as the surgeon general.”
Ladapo did address the similar views he shares with DeSantis. “I guess politics is a component of my role, but I’m not here for the politics, I’m here for health,” Ladapo said Wednesday. “It just so happens that the governor and I happen to sort of see things similarly among some major health issues, and that’s good.”
Democrats previously accused Ladapo of dodging questions and not doing enough to promote vaccines. On Wednesday, Democrats reiterated those concerns and urged Ladapo, who watched the debate from the Senate gallery, to break from the Republican governor.
“When you are noncommittal to anything, then the optics are that you’re a yes man,” said Sen. Jason W. B. Pizzo, a Democrat, as he looked in Ladapo’s direction. “And we can’t have the third-largest state in the country’s top doctor being a yes man to a politician.”
Ladapo drew national attention for refusing to wear a mask in the office of state Sen. Tina Polsky, a Democrat who told him she had a serious medical issue. She later revealed a breast cancer diagnosis. Ladapo released a statement that said he was “saddened” by the news of her illness and wished her “blessings and strength.”
ARTICLE: PAUL MURDOCH
MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: ORLANDO SENTINEL