When Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo steps before senators for his first confirmation hearing, leading House Democrats hope their fellow lawmakers ask the controversial doctor about his COVID-19 experience and stance.
The Senate Health Policy Committee is slated Wednesday to weigh Ladapo’s appointment to be the state’s top public health official. House Minority Leader Evan Jenne told reporters Monday that he wants to hear lawmakers flesh out Ladapo’s medical expertise.
Reports have challenged Ladapo’s claims he worked as a frontline COVID-19 doctor at the University of California Los Angeles’ flagship hospital before Gov. Ron DeSantis selected him in September as Florida’s next Surgeon General.
Jenne said Ladapo has done great work on obesity, but the Dania Beach Democrat questioned how that translates to the state’s COVID-19 response. The pandemic has nothing to do with obesity, he continued.
“Where are his bona fides on that, because reading through his CV, they’re just not there,” Jenne said.
However, there is a connection between obesity and COVID-19, namely as a comorbidity. Ladapo has called age the biggest risk factor for severe COVID-19 infection, but he has also flagged obesity, hypertension and diabetes as other major risk factors.
Ladapo’s comments about public health more generally have been overshadowed in the media by his comments on schools, masks, vaccines, hydroxychloroquine and testing. Like DeSantis, Ladapo has criticized vaccine mandates and taken other positions that buck the general consensus of medical experts.
“This is a political pick,” Jenne said. “The Surgeon General in the state of Florida, the decision is being based purely on politics and nothing to do with actual science and medical sciences.”
House Democrats’ Policy Chair, Rep. Fentrice Driskell, said she hopes senators compare and contrast Ladapo’s COVID-19 “theories and ideas” with the “prevailing thoughts” from the medical community.
Ladapo already has a rocky history with the Senate. Boca Raton Democratic Sen. Tina Polsky in October asked Ladapo to leave her office for refusing to wear a mask despite her saying she had a serious medical condition. Polsky later revealed she had been diagnosed with breast cancer.
Senate President Wilton Simpson, a Trilby Republican, sided with Polsky in the matter, twice condemning Ladapo for his actions and comments. Despite calls from critics for the Senate to deny Ladapo’s confirmation, DeSantis has defended the doctor.
“It’s going to be interesting to see whether or not the Governor’s Office has smoothed things over with the Senate or if there are any questions asked about that,” Driskell said. “But I think if our colleagues can keep it fact-based, I think that’s more than enough fodder to try to evaluate whether Dr. Ladapo is fit to hold this office.”