Kansas' Top Health Official Says He Was 'Fauci'd' Out of Job After Politicization of COVID

The doctor who helped guide Kansas throughout the COVID-19 pandemic is now saying he was "Fauci'd" out of his job, the Associated Press reported.

Dr. Lee Norman told the Kansas News Service that he resigned from his positions as the state health officer and at the state Department of Health and Environment because he was told to do so.

He cited the divisive tensions between Democratic Governor Laura Kelly and the state's Republican-led legislature as the primary cause of his firing. Many Republicans in Kansas' legislature have publicly opposed vaccine mandates and other measures to slow the spread of COVID-19.

"The divisiveness," said Norman, "really interfered with it. It was [like] sticking a stick into the spokes of a bicycle. There are many states where there hasn't been this kind of conflict."

He drew comparisons between his firing and the right's treatment of Dr. Anthony Fauci, particularly from when former President Donald Trump was in office.

"The shameful treatment in the Trump administration of public health leaders, I think, set the stage for having the same thing happen at the state level," Norman said. "Fauci was Fauci'd. And to be honest with you, I think I was Fauci'd."

Shortly before Norman's departure, Kelly publicly opposed President Joe Biden's proposed vaccine mandate for government employees. Forty-eight Kansas counties lost their public or county health administrators due to the mandate, and Norman referred to these losses as a "brain drain" and supported COVID-19 vaccination.

"The vaccines are safe," he said. "One of the counter-narratives that natural immunity is better than vaccine-driven immunity is simply not true. The longer we have non-immune individuals roaming the Earth, the more variants we are going to see emerge."

For more reporting from The Associated Press, see below.

Laura Kelly on Vaccine Mandates
Kansas Governor Laura Kelly stands outside the front door of the governor's official residence for a holiday event on November 23, 2021, in Topeka. The Democratic governor is defending her decision to sign a Republican bill to financially protect workers who refuse to get COVID-19 vaccinations, saying, "leadership means seeking compromise." AP Photo/John Hanna

Norman had been the health department's top administrator since Kelly took office in January 2019. He was replaced quickly by Janet Stanek, a longtime hospital administrator from Topeka.

Kelly, in announcing Norman's departure, praised him as "the most consequential" leader in the department's history.

Norman was perhaps the most visible Kelly adviser early in the coronavirus pandemic, often standing alongside her in a white lab coat. But he was less visible in recent months.

Conflicts with the public and elected leaders at the municipal and county level have resulted in the firings and resignations of many public health leaders across the U.S.

Norman reiterated that COVID-19 vaccines are safe and offer the best defense against current and future variants of the virus.

Essential Worker Counter Protestors
Dr. Lee Norman, who helped guide Kansas throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, is now saying he was "Fauci'd" out of his job. Above, health care workers counter-protest in front of the state Capitol building as protesters demand that businesses be allowed to open, people allowed to work and lives returned to normal on April 23, 2020, in Topeka, Kansas. Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images