On Sept. 21, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) announced his appointment for surgeon general as Joseph Ladapo. While at first glance the career medical professional appeared to be an exception to the pattern of appointing officials based purely on ideological grounds, a closer examination has rapidly revealed that Ladapo is in the running for DeSantis’s worst-ever political appointment.
Immediately following his appointment, Ladapo claimed that vaccines are “nothing special.” Not only has Ladapo made several statements that threaten to derail the effort to vaccinate people, but he has fed into conservative suspicions that COVID-19 can be cured with a host of random bogus cures.
Taking the same hands-off approach as DeSantis, Ladapo asserted vaccines are just as effective at preventing COVID-19 transmission and serious illness as “losing weight, exercising, [and] eating more fruits and vegetables.”
That’s right, you are now more qualified than Ladapo to be surgeon general if you simply believe in the efficacy of vaccinations.
Rather than advocate for the safety of the public, Ladapo is another mouthpiece for the disaster that is the DeSantis administration. Like DeSantis and former President Donald Trump, Ladapo has promoted hydroxychloroquine — spreading lies and falsehoods to such an extent that a video in which he touted hydroxychloroquine as beneficial for curing vulnerable COVID-19 patients has been removed from social media.
No stranger to social media controversy, Ladapo has appeared in a video for the pro-Trump health care group America’s Frontline Doctors, which has played a key role in spreading pandemic-related misinformation.
As a doctor, Ladapo had to take the Hippocratic Oath, binding doctors to “do no harm” to patients, no matter the circumstances. However, his promotion of fake COVID-19 cures violates this oath and should make him ineligible to practice medicine due to the harm he is causing. This makes having a surgeon general who promotes conspiracy theories and refuses to acknowledge science and reality even more frightening.
In an interview with the Florida Political Review, Florida Rep. Robin Bartleman, D-Weston, emphasized her concern about DeSantis’s appointment of Ladapo.
“[DeSantis] is playing to a political base, and it is dangerous because we are in the middle of a pandemic and need to ensure that Floridians are safe,” says Bartleman. She sees right through DeSantis and his appointment of Ladapo, saying she believes the surgeon general was chosen as he “aligns with [DeSantis’s] philosophy.” Ladapo has even admitted to this when he promptly stated he was “very happy to be here in Florida working with Governor DeSantis” as soon as his appointment was announced.
Unfortunately, despite being a member of the Florida Legislature, Bartleman says there is realistically very little she can do to curtail Ladapo’s authority as “the governor has the [ultimate] oversight” over the surgeon general.
While Ladapo must be confirmed by the Florida Senate to make his new position official, as Republicans currently hold a 24-16 majority, this is a foregone conclusion.
Ladapo’s praise for a governor who has led Floridians into a crisis of his own making has made it clear that Ladapo will be just what DeSantis likes best: a “yes man” who will acquiesce to the governor’s demands, no matter how irrational they may be.
DeSantis is widely rumored to be planning for a 2024 presidential run and his COVID-19 mismanagement in the state of Florida — including the appointment of Ladapo — has had its intended effect of making DeSantis a hero to millions of anti-mask, anti-vaccine Republicans.
Presently, it appears that Floridians will not receive any help from the state regarding COVID-19. With a surgeon general who denies the usefulness of vaccines and a governor who bans mask mandates in the name of freedom, we must all be vigilant and follow proper COVID-19 protocols.
We need to ensure that Ladapo is unable to translate his dangerous rhetoric into action and that the harsh glare of the public spotlight continues to shine down on the surgeon general.
Democratic gubernatorial contenders Rep. Charlie Crist, D-Florida, and State Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried (D) have both taken time to speak out about Ladapo. More specifically, Crist called Ladapo “reckless” and DeSantis an “oppressive tyrant.” In the same vein, Fried cast doubt on the ability of Ladapo to do his job properly and safely, criticizing DeSantis for his rampant “disinformation” campaign.
Crist regularly encourages his constituents to get vaccinated, and Fried is the only statewide elected official to be aggressively spreading the message on the necessity of being vaccinated; it’s clear the general election will be a fight between a pro-vaccine Democrat and a seemingly shameless DeSantis.
Ladapo will likely become a polarizing part of that election — a far cry from ‘normal’ times when the surgeon general is rarely mentioned on the campaign trail — but this is part of the ‘new normal.’
With our governor maliciously mismanaging the COVID-19 pandemic and appointing a surgeon general who will only contribute to DeSantis’s bungling of the health crisis, the next phase of the pandemic will be an interesting one. Floridians will wait with bated breath to see what this new phase of pandemic governance will bring.
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Featured image: Governor Ron DeSantis. Unmodified photo used under a Creative Commons License. (https://bit.ly/3oWgdcF)