TIPP CITY, Ohio (WDTN)- Republican Senator Steve Huffman, District 5, was fired from his job as an emergency room doctor following comments made during a hearing on whether racism should be declared a public health crisis in Ohio.
Senator Huffman was asking Angela Dawson, the executive director of the Ohio Commission on Minority Health about why minority communities have been more severely impacted statistically by the coronavirus pandemic.
“Could it be that the African American, or the colored community, does not wash their hands as much as other groups,” he asked.
In a statement on Thursday, Senator Huffman released a statement saying the following:
“Regrettably, I asked a question in an unintentionally awkward way that was perceived as hurtful and was exactly the opposite of what I meant. I was trying to focus on why COVID-19 affects people of color at a higher rate since we really do not know all the reasons.”
Thursday afternoon, Huffman’s former employer, TeamHealth, released a statement confirming that he was fired as a result of his comments:
“Dr. Huffman’s comments are wholly inconsistent with our values and commitment to creating a tolerant and diverse workplace. TeamHealth has terminated Dr. Huffman’s employment.”TeamHealth
In Tipp City, an area that Senator Huffman represents, residents called the comment “appalling,” “bizarre,” and said that it was “not a positive or helpful statement.
“To perfectly honest, I was a little mortified by it because [the term ‘colored’] is not an acceptable term at all,” said Stephanie Hoffman, a Tipp City resident.
Senator Huffman has been a practicing physician at Upper Valley Medical Center and Wayne Hospital for 18 years. He is also the Vice Chair of the Health, Human Services and Medicaid committee.
The chair of that committee, Republican Senator Dave Burke, had some strong statements in reaction to the backlash.
“Ohio needs to move forward and I am not going to let one question define what happened in that room for 11 hours,” he said.
Burke said many people gave their testimony during the hearing and that a lot of learning needs to be done to move forward on the topic of racism and COVID-19
“I admit the wording could have been better. But everybody has a different starting point on this issue. If the way you phrase something is going to intimidate you from being able to engage it then we will never move forward,” he said.
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