Sen. Stephen Huffman (R), an Ohio state senator and doctor, who questioned whether members of “the colored population” were disproportionately contracting COVID-19 because of their hygiene and alleged lack of social distancing and mask wearing, has been appointed to lead the state Senate Health Committee.
“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?” Huffman asked a Black health expert in June 11 testimony. “Could that just be the explanation of why there’s a higher incidence?”
Black lawmakers in the state are criticising the appointment. Calls from Democrats and the ACLU of Ohio are also calling him to resign from the GOP-controlled Senate.
According to the Associated Press, Huffman, of Tipp City, was appointed by Senate President Matt Huffman, his cousin, to chair the committee even after he was fired from his position as an emergency room physician for his comments.
In a letter from last Wednesday (January 20), the Ohio Black Legislative Caucus demanded an appointed health committee leader who understands and moves to change the inequities of healthcare in the state “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 press release.