Florida Senate Confirms Surgeon General Dems Labeled 'Anti-Science Quack'

Joseph Ladapo has been confirmed as Florida's next surgeon general after a vote in Florida's Senate Wednesday that went along party lines, confirming Ladapo by a vote of 24-15.

Following his confirmation, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, who is running for governor against incumbent Ron DeSantis, released a statement reiterating her belief that Ladapo is unqualified, calling him an "anti-science quack."

Earlier this month, Newsweek reported that the background check for DeSantis' controversial nominee included a former supervisor at UCLA who said they would not recommend him for the position of surgeon general. The supervisor said Ladapo created "stress and acrimony" during his time at UCLA over his opinions on the university's COVID restrictions and policies and his public opinions disputing the effectiveness of masks, lockdowns and vaccines.

"No. In my opinion the people of Florida would be better served by a surgeon general who grounds his policy decisions and recommendations in the best scientific evidence rather than opinions," the unnamed former supervisor told investigators conducting the background check.

"It's unfortunate that a single comment from a disgruntled supervisor would find facilitating discussions a cause for concern, especially during such an ever-evolving medical landscape," Jeremy Redfern, press secretary for the Florida Department of Health, told Newsweek at the time.

The background check also included positive recommendations from other colleagues, and Redfern said the attempt to "smear" Ladapo with the publication of the negative comment should not overshadow his prior accomplishments, including his employment at UCLA and New York University and other awards given to Ladapo for his research.

In the first of two Senate committee hearings that preceded his full confirmation vote, Ladapo was accused of not sufficiently answering questions from several Democrats on the Health Policy Committee, which led the lawmakers to walk out of the hearing in protest. The second hearing, with the Ethics and Elections Committee, was extended so all the lawmakers' questions could be answered, the Tallahassee Democrat reported.

"His answers were evasive at best and sometimes contemptuous when answering questions about masks, social distancing and vaccines," Senator Lori Berman said during debate over Ladapo's confirmation, saying he was "not the right person for the job," according to the Democrat.

Nominated in September and serving in the position while his confirmation was being debated, Ladapo has been a vocal supporter of DeSantis' policies and said he would not make COVID policy for the state's health department based on "fear," which he claimed that his predecessor and the rest of the country had been doing, the Tallahassee Democrat reported.

Ladapo has also made headlines and been criticized for his appearance in a 2020 video that promoted several inaccurate claims and conspiracy theories about COVID, as well as for an October encounter during which he refused to wear a mask while in a meeting in the office of state Senator Tina Polsky, who had been diagnosed with breast cancer months prior. He reportedly suggested they could meet outside instead, before eventually being told to leave her office over his repeated refusals.

Update 2/23/22, 6:52 p.m. EST: This story has been updated with additional context and information.

Joseph Ladapo Florida Surgeon General Ron DeSantis
Dr. Joseph Ladapo was confirmed as surgeon general by the Florida state Senate on Wednesday. Above, Ladapo gestures as speaks to supporters and members of the media before a bill signing by Governor Ron DeSantis on November 18, 2021, in Brandon, Florida. Chris O'Meara/Associated Press File