Florida Surgeon General Demands Freedom To Breathe On State Senator With Cancer
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis's new surgeon general Joseph Ladapo isn't just a weapon of mass disinformation about COVID-19. He's also a creep who's seemingly incapable of basic human courtesy.
Ladapo requires confirmation from Florida's state Senate and was making the rounds last week when he reportedly stopped by Democratic Sen. Tina Polsky's office. Polsky was diagnosed with Stage One breast cancer in August, so had good reason to request Ladapo put on a mask and not shower her with his breath droplets. This is a simple request, like buttoning your fly, but Ladapo refused, because he's an asshole. That's our theory, at least.
"I told him I had a serious medical condition," said Polsky, who will begin radiation therapy treatment for cancer next week.
She has fucking cancer! Ladapo couldn't act like a decent human for five minutes. Instead, he suggested they take it outside. Polsky, who we've mentioned has cancer, didn't want to go outside. Sometimes, you prefer to remain comfortably seated in your climate-controlled office, like when you have cancer. There was a brief back-and-forth, and Polsky asked Ladapo why he wouldn't just wear a mask for their meeting.
"He just smiles and doesn't answer. He's very smug," Polsky recalled. "And I told him several times, `I have this very serious medical condition.' And he said, 'That's OK,' like it basically has nothing to do with what we are talking about."
Polsky said she has cancer, and Ladapo responded, “That's OK." It's actually not OK. Florida's surgeon general should appreciate that cancer is bad. She's talking about oncology, not astrology. A positive COVID-19 test would mean a delay in her treatment, according to Florida Politics, which could jeopardize her survival.
She eventually asked Ladapo to leave, but said that on his way out the door, Ladapo remarked, "Sometimes I try to reason with unreasonable people for fun."
I know I keep belaboring this point, but Polsky has cancer and therefore may be immunocompromised. Ladapo, meanwhile, seems to us like a straight-up sociopath. He demonstrates how cruelty has become the modern GOP's governing philosophy. Ladapo's spokesperson confirmed the meeting in a statement, but denied the taunting comments. The spokesperson also failed to spell Polsky's name correctly, because apparently even that's too much to ask.
When my aunt met my infant son, she was just getting over a cold, so she wore a surgical mask. She didn't want to get him sick. She's a former nurse, not a fancy surgeon general, but she also cares about other people. Ladapo is opposed to the vaccine and mask mandates. However, he can freely choose to wear a mask to cover his reportedly unvaccinated face. He doesn't because this isn't about government coercion or control. This is an affirmatively anti-life equation: No masks or vaccines, ever. Legitimate medical science doesn't support this position.
The Florida Senate is GOP-controlled, so Ladapo had a glide path to confirmation. Polsky was probably a "no" regardless, but Ladapo behaving like a schoolyard bully put Republicans on the defensive. Republican Senate President Wilton Simpson sent a memo to all Senate staff that criticized Ladapo's actions but avoided mentioning his name. Such bold, moral clarity! Like a common Susan Collins, Simpson said the incident was “disappointing."
"What occurred in Senator Polsky's office was unprofessional and will not be tolerated in the Senate," the Republican leader wrote. "While there is no mask mandate in the Senate, Senators and staff can request social distancing and masking within their own offices. If visitors to the Senate fail to respect these requests, they will be asked to leave."
Hmm, that sounds a lot like a mask mandate.
Republicans, including Simpson, have spent this pandemic enabling the willfully ignorant. Simpson opposed mask mandates in schools. However, parents who don't want their kids catching COVID-19 would prefer students and teachers wear masks in class. This is no different from Polsky's polite request, and Ladapo's selfish response is a microcosm of this entire stupid debate. Anti-maskers can hide behind large numbers of impacted people while shouting “Freedom!" But when this is broken down to an encounter between a woman sick with cancer and a preening asshole, Republicans like Simpson can't escape the shame.
Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay tweeted that she appreciated Simpson's gesture, but challenged him to show true leadership and reject Ladapo's nomination. It's not hard to do on the merits: Ladapo publicly spreads anti-vax lies and disinformation, and he's aligned with extremist groups such as America's Frontline Doctors, which includes that demon semen person (we won't use the word “doctor").
The Orlando Sentinel has also declared Ladapo unfit for his position. However, we expect DeSantis to double down on his decision. He's copied Donald Trump's body language in speeches, so the obvious next step is to mimic Trump's devotion to the worst people on Earth.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. Once, he wrote a novel called “Mahogany Slade,” which you should read or at least buy. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."