Oct 28, 2021 - News
Florida surgeon general's weak defense
State Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo speaks during a September press conference in Kissimmee.
State Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo speaks during a September press conference in Kissimmee. Photo: Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Newspaper editors across Florida called Dr. Joseph Ladapo unfit to be the state's surgeon general yesterday as the doctor defended himself for refusing to don a mask at a meeting with a lawmaker who has a serious illness.

Why it matters: The Senate vote to confirm Ladapo, who was picked by Gov. Ron DeSantis to lead the state's health department, is scheduled for the body's next session in January.

  • He's getting buried under heaps of fresh controversy just 38 days into the job, but if confirmed, Ladapo would lead the Florida Department of Health and its 17,000 employees. He earns $512,000 a year, a salary jointly paid by the state Department of Health and UF.

Context: Top brass at the University of Florida College of Medicine fast-tracked his hiring, knowing that Gov. Ron DeSantis was eyeing him for the position, according to emails obtained by the USA TODAY Network-Florida.

The latest: The new round of criticism comes as Ladapo weakly defended himself for refusing to don a mask in a meeting with Sen. Tina Polsky, D-Boca Raton, who has breast cancer and starts radiation therapy soon.

  • "Having a conversation with someone while wearing a mask is not something I find productive, especially when other options exist," he tweeted. "It is important to me to communicate clearly and effectively with people. I can't do that when half of my face is covered."
  • Polsky told reporters that his demeanor was "smug" as he prodded her to join him outside maskless.

What they're saying: Many newspapers in the Gannett chain ran an editorial that called the pick a "disastrous miscalculation" for DeSantis.

Our thought bubble: Somehow doctors for decades upon decades have figured out how to communicate incredibly important information while wearing medical masks, but this one can't?

  • If masks stop you from communicating, perhaps Ladapo should try one.
Students at the Miami-Dade Junior College Medical Center Fred Ascher Allied Health Careers Building studying operating room technology in November 1971.
Students at the Miami-Dade Junior College Medical Center Fred Ascher Allied Health Careers Building studying operating room technology in November 1971. Credit: State Archives of Florida
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