Florida Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo defended his involvement Tuesday with a group of doctors that touted a false and unproven COVID-19 “cure” favored by former President Donald Trump.

Ladapo faced scrutiny from Democrats during his second confirmation hearing over his support of America’s Frontline Doctors, which held a controversial news conference in July 2020 in front of the U.S. Supreme Court building.

Questioning by the Senate’s Ethics and Elections Committee will resume Tuesday night. If it approves him, the full Senate will take up Ladapo’s nomination next.

Ladapo stood with other doctors in white coats at the event, which promoted zinc and the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine as a COVID-19 cure and blasted lockdowns and other COVID-19 restrictions.

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State Sen. Tina Polsky pressed Ladapo on why he participated.

Ladapo said he joined because he supports “individual autonomy” in public health.


“What they stood for that I supported then and still support now is the importance of recognizing individual autonomy when making public health policy,” Ladapo said. “That is something that I have been consistently supportive of in terms of the importance of recognizing and respecting the individual preferences and diversity of perspectives and opinions.”

Ladapo himself did not call hydroxychloroquine a cure at the July 2020 news conference. He said doctors shouldn’t be limited in using it to treat COVID-19.

Trump shared a video of the news conference, which was later labeled misinformation by social media platforms and taken down. Research has indicated that hydroxychloroquine is not an effective COVID-19 treatment, and the Food and Drug Administration advises against its usage.

Simone Gold, the founder of America’s Frontline Doctors, was one of the people charged with breaking into the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6, 2021, attack. Stella Immanuel, another group member, has a history of making outlandish medical claims, including that genealogical problems are caused by sex with demons in dreams.

The issue came up during the second round of questioning in Ladapo’s confirmation process. During the first hearing on Jan. 26, Democrats walked out in protest because they said Ladapo was evading their questions. Ladapo said he thought he adequately answered the questions.

Republicans on the committee unanimously recommended his confirmation.

Ladapo has been a polarizing figure since he was appointed to the post by Gov. Ron DeSantis in September. Ladapo’s views mirror DeSantis’ hands-off approach toward the pandemic. He’s stressed a “holistic” approach toward COVID-19 that involves healthy eating and exercise to improve overall health and the ability to fight off viruses.

The son of Nigerian immigrants, Ladapo is a graduate of Harvard Medical School and worked as a physician and researcher at UCLA before being named surgeon general. He also serves as a professor at the University of Florida.

Ladapo earns a combined $437,000 for his dual roles as a UF professor and surgeon general, according to the Department of Health and the University of Florida.