GOP lawmaker fired from job as ER doctor after remarks on 'colored population' and COVID-19

Steve Huffman.
(Image credit: AP Photo/Al Behrman, File)

Steve Huffman, a Republican state senator in Ohio, has been fired from his job as an emergency room doctor after asking earlier this week whether the "colored population" is being hit harder by the coronavirus pandemic because they "do not wash their hands as well as other groups."

Huffman posed the question to Angela Dawson, executive director of the Ohio Commission on Minority Health, during a hearing on whether racism should be declared a public health crisis. He said he understood that "African Americans have a higher incidence of chronic conditions and that makes them more susceptible to death from COVID. But why does it not make them more susceptible to just get COVID? Could it just be that African Americans or the colored population do not wash their hands as well as other groups? Or wear a mask? Or do not socially distance themselves? Could that be the explanation for why the higher incidence?"

Dawson responded, "That is not the opinion of leading medical experts in this country. Do all populations need to wash their hands? Absolutely, sir, but that is not where you are going to find the variance and the rationale for why these populations are more vulnerable."

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Huffman's comments drew ire from other lawmakers and the public, and on Thursday, he was fired from TeamHealth, with the company telling The Washington Post, "Dr. Huffman's comments are wholly inconsistent with our values and commitment to creating a tolerant and diverse workplace."

Huffman spoke with the Post on Wednesday night, and said he thought the phrases "people of color" and "colored population" were "interchangeable." His question, he said, was "rhetorical," as he 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." He also said that when it comes to providing medical treatment, "anybody that comes into any emergency room, I give them the very best care regardless of what race they are."

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Catherine Garcia

Catherine Garcia is night editor for Her writing and reporting has appeared in Entertainment Weekly and, The New York Times, The Book of Jezebel, and other publications. A Southern California native, Catherine is a graduate of the University of Redlands and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.