Donald Trump-aligned Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, whose state recorded more COVID-19 cases and deaths in August than it did in any month before vaccines became widely available, has appointed a new state surgeon general. Is it someone normal who will tell people to get vaccinated? No, you idiot! It’s a doctor named Joseph Ladapo who was last seen on the national stage participating in a COVID miracle cure event with another doctor who believes that lizard people control the government and that demons cause gynecological problems by implanting stolen sperm, as well as a third doctor who later got arrested for being part of the mob that smashed into the U.S. Capitol in an effort to overturn the presidential election.
The first doctor’s name is Stella Immanuel, and you can read more about her unique belief system here. She was the breakout star of a July 2020 event in Washington, D.C. held by a group calling itself America’s Frontline Doctors, which was affiliated with a right-wing group called Tea Party Patriots Action and included such purported virology experts as a Michigan ophthalmologist with an expired medical license. Among other things, doctors in the group claimed that the drug hydroxychloroquine could cure COVID; at the time, then-President Trump was obsessed with hydroxychloroquine, and he retweeted an America’s Frontline Doctors video, which was then removed from Twitter and Facebook for violating misinformation policies.
Some of the group’s videos are still available online, though, including the one pictured above, taken later during the same “summit.” In that video, Ladapo criticizes “lockdown” policies as ineffective, says there is “some evidence” that cloth masks do not prevent the spread of COVID, suggests that hydroxychloroquine is being suppressed for “salacious” reasons, and delivers a vague but conspiratorial digression about his disbelief that a country as productive as the United States could really experience product shortages and supply-chain problems.
Also at the event was Simone Gold, one of the founders of America’s Frontline Doctors, who was subsequently arrested for entering the Capitol on Jan. 6, during which time she gave a speech in the Capitol rotunda from which a Washington Post reporter reviewing video footage could only make out the phrases “I’m a mom” and “massive medical establishment.” (The day before the riot, Gold called the COVID vaccine a “experimental, biological agent” in remarks to Trump supporters. At the July 2020 event, Ladapo described Gold as an ally in “efforts to try to bring some light into a place where there was mostly darkness and fear and panic.” She has said she entered the Capitol after it was breached and did not believe her presence there was unlawful.) In May 2021, the group sued the U.S. government in an effort to reverse the FDA’s emergency authorization of COVID vaccines for children aged 5 to 12. In August, Time ran an investigative piece documenting numerous allegations that AFLD, as it’s known, is now charging “patients” to book telemedicine appointments—some of which never actually take place—at which they can get prescriptions for the anti-parasitic drug Ivermectin, which is another unproven COVID cure that is frequently touted and distributed under fraudulent circumstances.
p data-uri=”slate.com/_components/slate-paragraph/instances/cktvvtzo600333h6cgg9tus4u@published” data-word-count=”65″ class=”slate-paragraph slate-graf”>There is no public evidence that Ladapo was involved in either the lawsuit or the Ivermectin operation uncovered by Time, but he has continued to write skeptically about vaccines and other mainstream anti-COVID efforts for the right-wing Wall Street Journal editorial page. After being introduced by DeSantis on Tuesday, Ladapo told reporters that there is “nothing special” about vaccines “compared to any other preventive measure.”
p data-uri=”slate.com/_components/slate-paragraph/instances/cktvmmn7q00133h6cyv4snjgp@published” data-word-count=”62″ class=”slate-paragraph slate-graf”>Incredibly, one part of Ladapo’s biography that is completely legitimate, and not a 30 Rock joke about the background of the kind of person who would become surgeon general in Florida, is that he has treated patients at the “Ronald Reagan Medical Center” in Los Angeles and is affiliated with UCLA’s “David Geffen School of Medicine.” That’s Doctor Florida Man to you!