In Ohio, a Republican state senator and doctor who once asked whether members of “the colored population” were disproportionately becoming infected with the coronavirus due to their hygiene habits has been appointed to lead the Senate Health Committee, according to The Associated Press.
“Could it just be that African Americans – or the colored population — do not wash their hands as well as other groups? Or wear masks? Or do not socially distance themselves?” state Sen. Stephen Huffman asked a Black health expert in June 11 testimony. “Could that just be the explanation of why there’s a higher incidence?”
The comments resulted in calls from Democrats and the ACLU of Ohio for him to resign from the GOP-controlled Senate.
According to the report, Huffman was appointed to lead the committee by his cousin, Senate President Matt Huffman. He was granted the appointment despite having been fired from his position as an emergency room physician because of the comments.
The AP noted that Huffman is still a licensed medical doctor in Ohio.
In a letter Wednesday, the Ohio Black Legislative Caucus demanded a health committee leader who understands and can respond to the inequities of healthcare in Ohio “without political influence.”
“If the Senate leadership will not replace Sen. Huffman as Chair, then we will expect Sen. Huffman to use his position to improve the health of Ohio’s African-American population by working with OLBC to pass legislation that effectively addresses health disparities in the state of Ohio,” director Tony Bishop said in a news release.
Huffman spokesperson John Fortney noted in a written statement that the lawmaker had apologized “for asking a clumsy and awkwardly worded question.”
“Sincere apologies deserve sincere forgiveness, and not the perpetual politically weaponized judgement of the cancel culture,” he said.”