DeSantis gets in shouting match over racist killings, admonishes COVID-19 vaccines at Florida event

Florida Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo joins governor in Jacksonville

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Dr. Joseph Ladapo, the state's surgeon general, at a news conference in Jacksonville on Thursday, Sept. 7, 2023. (Copyright 2023 by WKMG ClickOrlando - All rights reserved.)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Florida Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo on Thursday urged a crowd to trust Gov. Ron DeSantis on COVID-19 “instead of all these PhDs and MDs” during a news conference at a Southside Irish pub in Jacksonville.

Ladapo in particular began by referencing the sign on the lectern, which read, “Mandate Freedom.”

“So, the governor chose that, he made that choice to have that sign in front here and (...) it’s a reflection of what inspired so many people to follow him during the re-election, the enormous victory that he had here, and during the time before then, right? He literally- how can it be that every news station and every medical expert, my colleagues on television, MDs, PhDs, are saying something totally different from what he’s saying in the middle of a pandemic? How do you- I mean, how do you trust one guy who’s saying something completely different from all these incredibly educated years of school publication scientists? (sic) How could you do that? Well, this is why people did it, right? Because there is, there is something within all of us that resonates with freedom and that something is part of our connection to God and our connection to every single thing around us, including each and every one of us,” Ladapo said.

At the news conference, billed in a release from the governor’s office as “putting the biomedical establishment on notice,” Ladapo warned of “the new” mRNA COVID-19 vaccine without offering a detailed explanation.

DeSantis and Ladapo may have been referring to updated COVID-19 vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer, reportedly meant to target the BA.2.86 subvariant and still awaiting FDA approval. The two could also have been discussing a new vaccine sought more generally by President Joe Biden. Either case was not specified Thursday.

“There’s a new vaccine that’s coming around the corner, a new mRNA COVID-19 vaccine, and there’s essentially no evidence for it. There’s been no clinical trial done in human beings showing that it benefits people, there’s been no clinical trial showing that it is a safe product for people, and not only that, but then there are a lot of red flags,” Ladapo said.

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Among the “red flags,” according to Ladapo, were that the new shots “actually cause cardiac injury in many people.”

“It’s going to be another DeSantis moment where you’re going to have to remember those, you know, remember that experience of hearing these very educated people telling you what you should think, but then listening inside to what makes sense, right? What feels right? You know, what feels like truth? Like, what has that feeling and that resonance of truth? That clarity of truth? Like, we all know that we feel it inside, and some of us know it more readily than others and it’s because we’re all in different paths, different points in our spiritual journeys,” said Florida’s surgeon general. “...When they try to convince you to be comfortable and agree with things that don’t feel comfortable, they don’t feel like things you should agree with, that is that is a sign, right? That’s a gift.”

Ladapo otherwise suggested listeners “put good nutrition” in their bodies, such as fruit and sunlight.

For DeSantis’ portion of the news conference, he largely encouraged a look back to actions by his office during the pandemic, such as how in May of this year bills were signed banning “gain of function” research in Florida, prohibiting businesses from requiring a COVID-19 test for entry and giving healthcare providers a right to deny patient services based on beliefs. Several other such laws and state initiatives were mentioned and cheered Thursday.

Tensions rose as the news conference turned to questions. DeSantis was challenged by someone in the crowd who said that his policies in general had enabled “immature, hateful people” to act out more often in Florida, invoking discussion on a 21-year-old man who fatally shot three Black people and himself at a Jacksonville dollar store in a racist killing spree on Aug. 26.

“That guy was Baker Acted, he should have been- he should have been ruled ineligible, but they didn’t involuntarily commit him,” DeSantis shouted over the individual. “You don’t get to come here and blame me for some madman. That is not appropriate and I’m not going to accept that.”

According to News4JAX, WKMG′s news partner up in Jacksonville, the man in the crowd had identified himself as an Air Force veteran and was escorted out of the conference after the exchange, attempting to get a further word in with statements including, “Please allow me to speak my truth, sir.”

Ladapo, before leaving the event himself, defended DeSantis.

“The gentleman was obviously — pardon me, I shouldn’t call him ‘gentleman’ — he was obviously crazy, right? He’s completely, completely disconnected. He was insane. He was insane, and first of all there’s politics with trying to connect that and that’s just, that’s just totally crazy as the governor was saying, but secondly what’s bothered me, just, I feel, Gov. DeSantis, he’s a good man, I would never- my wife and I would never have left our state of California to come to this state if he wasn’t a good man, if we didn’t feel that and know that he is, and it’s terrible that people take advantage of the fact that he’s a different color from the poor victims of that tragedy, to try and tie him into something. It’s so- it’s immoral and unfortunately it’s reflective of what we’ve been seeing for many years, but certainly during the pandemic, where people hide reality and they spin it and they try and make you buy what they’re trying to sell you, and it’s not true, it’s a total lie and they try to take advantage of the governor just because he’s not the same color as these people,” Ladapo said.

See the news conference again in the video player below:

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About the Author:

Brandon, a UCF grad, joined the ClickOrlando team in November 2021. Before joining News 6, Brandon worked at WDBO.