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Gov. Ron DeSantis continues to back surgeon general despite growing frustrations

'We'll just chalk it up to a difference of opinion,' Lt. Governor Jeanette Nuñez says
florida surgeon general-lapado.jfif
Posted at 5:57 PM, Oct 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-27 17:57:06-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Pressure is mounting for Florida's surgeon general, Dr. Joe Ladapo, to step down. Even so, the governor's office is not flinching.

Last week, Ladapo declined to wear a mask when visiting Sen. Tina Polsky, D-Boca Raton.

Polsky reportedly told the doctor she had health concerns as a new cancer patient.

Ladapo still rebuffed, and Polsky canceled the meeting as a result.

High-ranking Democrats are among those now calling for Ladapo's ouster. The list includes the state party chair Manny Diaz and Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried.

Fried, who's running for governor in 2022, sent DeSantis a letter Wednesday pushing her Republican opponent to withdraw Ladapo's nomination to the Senate or else.

"I hope you will do right by the people of Florida in withdrawing Dr. Ladapo from consideration," Fried wrote in the letter. "If his nomination should move forward, I will urge the Senate to reject Dr. Ladapo's confirmation."

U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, D-Florida, was the latest to join the opposition. In a news conference, the 2022 candidate for governor said Ladapo's actions were improper.

"I'm calling on Gov. Ron DeSantis to pull back this nomination," Crist said. "We're talking about someone who's been nominated to be the Surgeon General of the State of Florida. There is only one of those. That person should be held to the highest standard."

U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist calls for Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo to resign, Oct. 27, 2021
U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist holds a virtual news conference on Oct. 27, 2021, to call for Dr. Joseph Ladapo to resign as Florida's surgeon general.

In a Tuesday statement, Ladapo said he offered Polsky alternatives like meeting outside. The doctor also believed masking prevented him from communicating "clearly and effectively."

"Having a conversation with someone while wearing a mask is not something I find productive, especially when other options exist," the statement read.

Speaking about it for the first time, Florida's Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez said DeSantis remained committed to his nominee. That was despite the growing frustration from opponents.

Florida Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez
Florida Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez says the governor continues to support Ladapo as the state's surgeon general.

"It's unfortunate the situation unfolded like it did," Nuñez said. "Obviously, different viewpoints. Obviously, different interpretations of how it all went down. ... Unfortunately, we'll just chalk it up to a difference of opinion — but of course, the governor stands behind his choice for surgeon general."

A Senate vote on Ladapo is expected next year during the regular lawmaking session. Several Democrats have said they would oppose his nomination.

However, even without Senate confirmation, Florida law allows Ladapo to serve for two years.