Ohio State Sen. Steve Huffman is out of at least one job after he posed a racist question during a Senate hearing on whether to declare racism a public health crisis.
According to Cleveland.com, Huffman, who also worked as an emergency room doctor, was swiftly fired from that job as news spread about him questioning whether the “colored population” were more likely to contract the novel coronavirus “because they do not wash their hands as well as other groups.”
“Dr. Huffman’s comments are wholly inconsistent with our values and commitment to creating a tolerant and diverse workplace,” McHenry Lee, a spokesman for TeamHealth, a professional contractor who employed Huffman for his role as a doctor, told the news site. “TeamHealth has terminated Dr. Huffman’s employment.”
Huffman drew swift backlash for his line of questioning on Tuesday.
“My point is, I understand African-Americans have a higher incidence of chronic conditions and it makes them more susceptible to death from COVID. But why it doesn’t make them more susceptible to just get COVID,” said Huffman said during the hearing before the 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 a mask or do not socially distance themselves? That could be the explanation of the higher incidence?”
He was swiftly called out by colleagues, but the backlash had clearly only just begun.
Huffman initially claimed that his question was misunderstood, however he later took to Facebook to apologize for his comments.
“At a legislative committee hearing on Tuesday, I used an insensitive and offensive term while asking a question,” he wrote. “I had absolutely no malicious intent, but I recognize that my choice of words was unacceptable and hurtful. I apologize, and I make no excuses.”
“We all say something we regret and wish we could take back, and that’s certainly the case here for me,” he added. “We need to be more careful about the words we use and the potential harm they can inflict, even when that’s not our intent. I am reaching out to those who I offended to ask for their forgiveness, to listen to their input and to seek their guidance on how we can turn this mistake into a time of learning as we work together to build a better Ohio.”
The Ohio Legislative Black Caucus has called for all legislators and staff to take racial equity and implicit bias training, “to identify racial biases within the General Assembly and make it easier for us…to recognize racist policies.”
On the other hand, the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus Foundation, a 501(c)3 which is comprised of former lawmakers, is taking it a step further, demanding Huffman’s resignation as a senator.
“Steve Huffman demonstrated that he is unfit for office and should resign immediately. His remarks are insensitive, hurtful and set us back in our efforts to address the genuine reasons that the COVID-19 outbreak is having a particularly harsh impact in the Black community,” Barbara Sykes, the CEO and president of the Foundation said in a statement, according to NBC4i.
“Mr. Huffman is a doctor and one would expect more empathy and insight, but unfortunately he revealed his true character with his remarks. Black people and minorities are suffering and dying at alarming rates from the coronavirus, and we need elected officials who are willing to get to the heart of the matter rather than spout heartless sentiments,” Sykes added.