Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo was asked to leave a meeting with Florida Senator Tina Polsky, after refusing to wear a mask in her office.
The meeting between Ladapo and Polsky was in request from the surgeon general who met with other senators who will weigh in on his confirmation in the upcoming legislative session.
The significance behind Polsky’s request for Ladapo and two legislative aides, who were with Ladapo, to wear masks is related to Polsky’s diagnosis of stage one breast cancer in August.
“I told him I had a serious medical condition,” said Polsky, who will begin radiation therapy treatment for cancer next week according to Florida Politics.
After Ladapo denied wearing a mask and offered to take the meeting outside, Polsky said, “I don’t want to go outside. I want you to sit in my office and talk to you.”
Following a brief back-and-forth between the two, Polsky asked Ladapo why he could not wear a mask following her request.
In his response, Polsky said, “He just smiles and doesn’t answer. He’s very smug … 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.”
Additionally, she said that as Ladapo and his aides were leaving after she requested them to do, he said, “Sometimes I try to reason with unreasonable people for fun.”
She added, “I really wanted to interview him. I had a lot of good questions … So that was unfortunate that I didn’t do it. But I felt really uncomfortable.”
Florida Department of Health (DOH) spokesperson, Weesam Khoury, confirmed with Florida Politics that the meeting between Polsky and Ladapo did in fact happen, but denied the comment Polsky says Ladapo made when exiting her office.
While the DOH denies the accused comments made by Ladapo, Florida Senate President Wilton Simpson sent a memorandum – provided by Florida Senator Lauren Book on Twitter – to all Florida senators and staff that addressed the meeting.
“Today I learned of an interaction that occurred in Senator Polsky’s office, during which her request that visitors to the office wear a mask was not respected. This incident is even more disappointing given the health challenges Senator Polsky is currently facing,” Simpson wrote. “The prayers of the entire Senate family are with Senator Polsky as she begins her treatment. However, it shouldn’t take a cancer diagnosis for people to respect each other’s level of comfort with social interactions during the pandemic.”
He added, “What occurred in Senator Polsky’s office was unprofessional and will not be tolerated in the Senate. 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.”
Simpson concluded by noting that the Florida Senate has a “long history of respect and camaraderie,” and that he expects it to continue during his administration.
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