Most state surgeons general maintain relatively low public profiles, especially at the national level. In fact, the office of state surgeon general only exists in five states.
But Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo has managed to become relatively famous in a brief period — he was only tapped for the position four months ago — to the point that Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis yesterday described the controversial doctor as a "superstar."
I can think of some Democratic state legislators who'd likely disagree. The Orlando Sentinel reported on Ladapo's confirmation hearing in Tallahassee yesterday, which was a predictably contentious affair.
Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book pressed Ladapo repeatedly to give a yes or no answer on whether vaccines are effective against COVID-19 at a meeting of the Health Policy Committee. Ladapo declined. "Yes or no questions are not that easy to find in science," he said.... Ladapo also declined to endorse masks, saying they hadn't been shown to have a significant effect on the spread of COVID-19. That's at odds with the advice of most public health officials who say masks, particularly N95 masks, are an effective way to slow transmission.
He also wouldn't explain why Orange County's top public health official was put on administrative leave after encouraging his staff to get vaccinated. Ladapo also wouldn't say whether he regretted refusing to wear a mask around a Democratic lawmaker who'd recently been diagnosed with cancer.
The Sentinel quoted Democratic state Sen. Janet Cruz saying Ladapo's answers were "mired in words upon words" and "nonsense upon nonsense."
And so, rather than participate in a confirmation hearing in which the surgeon general didn't want to answer questions, Democrats on the panel simply walked out.
The Miami Herald talked to Republican state Sen. Aaron Bean who conceded Ladapo could do a better job answering questions. "When you're asked what time it is, tell us what time it is. And he told us how to build a clock today," the GOP legislator said.
Of course, given Ladapo's record, perhaps it shouldn't have come as too big of a surprise that he was reluctant to have a constructive dialog with state lawmakers. It was, after all, just a few weeks ago when he held a press conference in which he was critical of Covid testing.
A few months prior, Ladapo questioned the efficacy of Covid-19 vaccines, denounced vaccine requirements, referenced unsubstantiated conspiracy theories to argue against the vaccines, and encouraged Floridians to "stick with their intuition," as opposed to following the guidance of public health officials who actually know what they're talking about.
As regular readers may recall, it was around the same time when Ladapo started pushing "innovative" Covid-19 treatments with little track record of success, to the frustration of state physicians and medical experts.
Before taking office, the doctor also spent much of the pandemic questioning the value of vaccines and the efficacy of masks, while simultaneously touting ineffective treatments such as hydroxychloroquine.
It led the editorial board of the Orlando Sentinel to describe Ladapo as a "COVID crank" who's been "associated with a right-wing group of physicians whose members include a physician who believes infertility and miscarriages are the result of having sex with demons and witches during dreams."
The broader concern, of course, is that many Floridians won't realize just how little credibility Ladapo has. Many families will see his title and assume the state's official surgeon general must know what he's talking about, or he wouldn't be the state's official surgeon general.
Traditionally, that might've been a safe assumption. In Florida in 2022, skepticism of Ladapo's advice is probably the safer course.