Legislator’s comments about black people, hygiene draw fury

Politics

FILE – In this October 13, 2014 file photo, Republican Sen. Steve Huffman speaks during a rally at Darke County GOP headquarters in Greenville, Ohio. The American Civil Liberties Union called for Huffman to step down from office Thursday, June 11, 2020 after the senator questioned on the Ohio Senate floor if “the colored population” contracts the virus at higher rates because of poor hygiene. (AP Photo/Al Behrman, File)

(AP/WFLA) – A Republican lawmaker asked on the Ohio Senate floor if “the colored population” is contracting coronavirus at disproportionate rates because they do not wash their hands as “well as other groups.”

The American Civil Liberties Union has called for state Sen. Steve Huffman to step down from office Thursday following his comments during a hearing for a resolution to declare racism a public health crisis.

Huffman caused controversy after he questioned Angela Dawson, executive director of the Ohio Commission of Minority Health, on Tuesday over why the COVID-19 rates for black Ohioans were higher than other populations.

“I understand African Americans have a higher incident of chronic conditions and that makes them more susceptible to death from COVID,” Huffman said. “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 the higher incidence?”

“That is not the opinion of leading medical experts in this country,” Dawson said, adding later: “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.”

Dawson took issue with Huffman’s question.

Huffman says he regretted how his question was perceived.

NBC News reports Huffman has since been fired from his job as an emergency room doctor.

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