Polsky threatened after mask episode with Florida surgeon general

Tina Polsky, a Democratic state senator, shares an anti-Semitic audio message that includes threats and insults. Polsky says it’s just the latest in a string of threats.
Sen. Tina Polsky, D-Boca Raton, has received numerous threats since she asked Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo to leave her office after he refused to wear a mask.
Sen. Tina Polsky, D-Boca Raton, has received numerous threats since she asked Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo to leave her office after he refused to wear a mask. [ STEVE CANNON | AP ]
Published Nov. 4, 2021|Updated Nov. 5, 2021

TALLAHASSEE — “F- - k off and die.”

Those were the final words, delivered in an angry crescendo, of a profanity-laced, anti-Semitic death threat received by state Sen. Tina Polsky on Tuesday.

The tirade from the unidentified female caller lasted one minute but managed to threaten Polsky’s safety — “We’re going to drag your a - - out. " It called her a racist, insulted her religion and diminished her suffering from breast cancer.

Polsky, a Boca Raton Democrat, received the call on the voice machine of her district office nearly two weeks after she went public with her decision to ask Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo to leave her office because he wouldn’t wear a face covering.

The message was even more hateful than the previous half-dozen mean-spirited voice messages she received, she said.

“It’s shocking that it’s still going on,’’ Polsky said Wednesday.

But more surprising to her has been the lack of compassion from Ladapo’s boss, Gov. Ron DeSantis, whom she credits with egging on his supporters.

“The humanity is gone, the compassion is gone, and unfortunately, our leaders do nothing to stop it,’’ Polsky said Wednesday. “They’re picking it up from our leaders and he [DeSantis] needs to stop it. I work for the state of Florida, just like he works for the state of Florida. He doesn’t care about me at all. He had many opportunities to show compassion towards me. He chose not to. He chose to go on the attack.”

Polsky noted that DeSantis appeared last week on Fox News and, rather than show compassion, criticized her.

After Fox News host Laura Ingraham showed a clip of Polsky’s interview on CNN, DeSantis said Polsky’s complaint was “manufactured” and that she was “using it to get political air time on Comcast and AT&T.”

Now, Polsky is firing back.

Pointed comments for Gov. DeSantis

“He just doesn’t care about anyone or anything but his presidential ambitions,’’ she said. “The governor, the surgeon general, and certainly not these trolls, don’t get to tell me where I’m comfortable and where I feel safe. That’s up to me to decide.”

The governor obviously knows the incident wasn’t “manufactured” because Ladapo talked about it, she said. And by referring to the corporate owners of CNN, Polsky said, DeSantis is signaling to his supporters they should associate her with “the woke corporations as he likes to call them” and make it appear she is “part of this left-wing conspiracy to bring him down.”

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Polsky said she was prompted to speak out about her latest death threat after a news conference on Wednesday in West Palm Beach at which DeSantis referred to President Biden as “Brandon,” a reference to the viral “Let’s go, Brandon” chant. The chant is code for “F - - k Joe Biden,” a vulgar reference to the president popularized on social media.

“Look at how this woman spoke to me — with such vitriol, such hatred, such venom and true hate in their heart and then asked me to die,’’ she said. “Think about what it was for — the simplest little task from a doctor.”

Polsky said she has also received “obnoxious posts” on her Facebook page, where she posts information for her constituents, and she has stopped looking at her Twitter notifications because of the vitriol and nasty comments.

Meanwhile, DeSantis has never referred to her by name, and, Polsky said, “he shows me no respect whatsoever.”

“If he had said, ‘I’m so sorry for what Sen. Polsky is going through. My wife is also going through it. So, sorry to all the women who are going through breast cancer, and she should have been treated with respect.’ That’s all he had to do and this whole thing would have been over,’’ she said.

“He didn’t. He doubled down and then he went on Fox and doubled down.”

Governor’s office responds

When asked about Polsky’s latest voice message, DeSantis spokesperson Christina Pushaw noted that death threats are a crime in Florida. She also forwarded DeSantis’ quote from Oct. 28 when reporters asked him about Polsky’s previous threats and he defended his surgeon general.

“There is no room for threats for anything,’’ DeSantis said. “I mean, it’s a crazy political time. There’s people that do a lot of things that I disagree with. I think the way that people have tried to treat the surgeon general has been unfortunate, and I don’t think it’s been right. At the same time, I would never countenance any of that [referring to threats sent to Senator Polsky]. I think that that’s wrong.”

Senate President Wilton Simpson, a Trilby Republican who has called Ladapo’s handling of the situation “unprofessional,” criticized the voice message.

“We can disagree on all kinds of things, including policies regarding masks, but there is absolutely no place for anti-Semitic slurs, or mean-spirited and cruel statements about someone’s health diagnosis,’’ he said in a statement.

Although the caller blocker her call identification, Polsky has forwarded the message to the Senate Sergeant at Arms office for investigation.

Polsky was diagnosed with stage one breast cancer in August, had surgery in September and began radiation treatment last week. Ladapo was expecting to meet with Polsky as part of his effort to get her support for his confirmation before the state Senate next year.

Polsky said she has allowed herself to be around family, friends and colleagues when they do not wear masks but whom she knows are vaccinated, and photographs on social media with those people have become fodder for her critics.

“If I’m comfortable around people who I know are vaccinated, like my family and friends and colleagues, then that’s what I’m going to do,’’ she said. “If I don’t feel comfortable with strangers coming to my office, of which there are dozens, and I’ve set up a rule that I have applied consistently, then that’s what I get to do.”

She said that Ladapo could have defused the situation by saying, “’if it makes you more comfortable, I’ll put this mask on, but let me explain to you why I don’t think masks work, and let’s talk.’

“I would have said, ‘Okay. Let’s sit in the office and talk.’ He doesn’t have to agree with me, but he has to respect my wishes and my office.”