IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Why it matters that Joseph Ladapo is hitting the campaign trail

Florida's Joseph Ladapo is one of the nation’s most controversial public health officials. Now he's making matters worse — by hitting the campaign trail.


By any fair measure, Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo is seen as one of the nation’s most controversial public health officials. It’s a reputation the fringe physician has gone to great lengths to earn.

Ladapo has rejected vaccination guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and faced accusations about misleading the public. He’s embarrassing professional colleagues with his antics and urged the public not to trust scientists, physicians, and other public health officials.

Despite the seriousness of the pandemic, Ladapo questioned the efficacy of Covid 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 those who actually know what they’re talking about. The editorial board of The Orlando Sentinel described 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.”

And yet, despite all of this, the Florida surgeon general at least kept up the pretense that he’s a medical professional, not a partisan political operative.

It’s against this backdrop that Ladapo is hitting the campaign trail. Florida Politics reported:

Florida’s Surgeon General is headed to the Granite State, hitting the campaign trail for the man who hired him next week. Dr. Joseph Ladapo will appear with Ron DeSantis Wednesday at an event hosted by the Never Back Down super PAC.

According to the announcement from the super PAC supporting the Florida governor’s candidacy, DeSantis will headline a “Medical Freedom Town Hall” event, which is set to get underway in about an hour, and the Republican presidential hopeful will be joined by Ladapo, whom the governor appointed to his current post.

The announcement added, “Dr. Ladapo will be attending in his personal capacity.”

In other words, a public health professional and state employee — whose generous salary is paid for by Florida taxpayers — will be part of a super PAC event in an early primary state to give a boost to the politician who gave him his influential job.

But we’re apparently not supposed to worry too much about the obvious ethical implications, because Ladapo will be in New Hampshire “in his personal capacity.”

As for DeSantis, the Republican governor is apparently under the impression that he’ll impress Granite State primary voters by reminding them of his far-right approach to Covid. He’ll need the help: DeSantis has slipped from second to third among GOP contenders in recent primary polling.