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Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo confirmed by Florida Senate

Republicans made the case for the doctor Wednesday over objections from Democrats.
Joseph Ladapo with Gov. Ron DeSantis at a news conference in Brandon in November. “I’m really looking forward to just focusing my energy and attention on the health of Floridians,” Ladapo said Wednesday after the party-line Senate vote to approve him as Florida's surgeon general.
Joseph Ladapo with Gov. Ron DeSantis at a news conference in Brandon in November. “I’m really looking forward to just focusing my energy and attention on the health of Floridians,” Ladapo said Wednesday after the party-line Senate vote to approve him as Florida's surgeon general. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]
Published Feb. 23|Updated Feb. 23

TALLAHASSEE — The Florida Senate on Wednesday voted to confirm Joseph Ladapo, Gov. Ron DeSantis’ pick to be the state’s surgeon general.

The party-line 24-15 vote was the culmination of a contentious approval process for Ladapo, who faced hours of questions from two different Senate committees in recent weeks.

Related: Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo one step away from Senate confirmation
Related: Florida Democrats walk out of Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo confirmation hearing

“I’m really looking forward to just focusing my energy and attention on the health of Floridians,” Ladapo said after the vote. “I know things have been pretty politically charged. I want to assure everyone that I’m really passionate about health, about good health. I’ve been consistently talking about good health since the beginning of the pandemic.”

In a brief debate session Wednesday, Republican senators made the case for Ladapo as a maverick thinker who won’t let politics or media narratives get in the way of doing what’s best for Florida.

“We get a man who literally looks at the data. Who, yes, follows the science, and questions it. That’s what I want. I want the best,” said Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach. “I want a nationally recognized, not only a doctor, but a researcher who’s going to be there when the going gets tough.”

Democrats argued against Ladapo’s confirmation, claiming the Harvard-trained doctor has been too politically divisive to be an effective leader for the state’s Department of Health. They noted that Ladapo offered less than full-throated support for coronavirus vaccines when asked about them in committees. And they questioned his ability to stand up to his boss, DeSantis.

Lawmakers also highlighted Ladapo’s refusal to wear a mask during an October meeting with Sen. Tina Polsky, D-Boca Raton, who was undergoing breast cancer treatment. At the time, Senate President Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, called Ladapo’s actions “unprofessional.”

“There is a place in science for those who like to go against the grain,” Polsky said Wednesday. “And that place is research or academia, which is his specialty. He can publish all the editorials he wants decrying accepted science, but what he cannot and should not do is lead the Florida Department of Health.”

Although Ladapo has been acting as the state’s top doctor since September, Wednesday’s Senate confirmation makes Ladapo’s title official. He will serve at the governor’s pleasure going forward.

When asked about Democratic senators’ statements that he was just a political appointee and a yes man for the governor, Ladapo said he wasn’t there for politics.

“It just so happens that the governor and I happen to see things similarly on some major health issues,” he said. “And that’s good, because I think that’s the right way to see it.”

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