Florida State Senator Turns Mask-Karen in a Bid to Help Block Confirmation of DeSantis Surgeon General

AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee

The ongoing mask debate in Florida not only continues, but it is turning sophomoric, as now members of the state legislature are leaning heavily on the disputed nature of masks in order to derail the upcoming confirmation of Joseph Ladapo, who was recently appointed by Governor Ron DeSantis as the state’s newest Surgeon General. Ladapo is awaiting confirmation from the Senate, and a rather petulant episode now risks that confirmation.

Ladapo has been making the rounds meeting with various Senators ahead of the confirmation vote, and one visit has sparked outrage in Tallahassee, such as political outrage goes. During a scheduled sit-down with Sen. Tina Polsky, things apparently turned contentious quickly, before their meeting even commenced. As they gathered in her office Polsky requested that Ladapo wear a mask. Her reasoning was that she had a serious medical condition and feels at higher risk for COVID symptoms.

This set off an exchange that Polsky claims was testy, and is being held up as a rationale for the presumptive Surgeon General to be denied confirmation. She requested he wear a mask for the meeting, and he declined. He requested they go outside to hold the meeting, and she declined. The two parties were apparently at loggerheads by this time.

Polsky said there was a brief back-and-forth, and then she finally asked whether there was a reason he couldn’t wear a mask. “He just smiles and doesn’t answer. He’s very smug,” Polsky recalled. “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.”

Polsky was diagnosed with breast cancer in August, and this was her reasoning behind taking masking measures. So yes, as cancer patients are known to be susceptible to COVID it is a valid concern, but we will see her level of concern seems a bit fluid. Now, this little ridiculous tiff where both sides sounded a bit irrational has blossomed into a bigger issue. Polsky has gone public with her details of the episode, and it is leading to a number of legislators to react politically.

A phalanx of state Democrats rose up on social to express their outrage over Ladapo’s alleged behavior, all of them delivering the chorus that this indicates how he is not fit to be the state’s Surgeon General. Of course, this is being done without a single one of them questioning the episode, and without a follow-up comment or explanation from the nominee himself. 

One senator gives her version of the exchange, then Florida Politics writes three pieces about it in two days, and half the legislature now appears outraged, including the GOP senate leader in a premature overreaction. But there are plenty of reasons to question Polsky’s stance on masks. While this drama is being delivered there are pieces of evidence arising to show that her position on requiring those around her to be fully masked is not so militant, and instead appears rather fluid.

The timing of the photo is within a week of her meeting with Ladapo, and well after her cancer diagnosis. This is not an isolated example. Here she is nestled in tight with State Senator Shevrin Jones as well.

It would appear that Polsky only finds herself imperiled by the unmasked if they are not members of the Democratic party.