TIPP CITY — UPDATE @ 10:01 p.m.: The Montgomery County Democratic Party has joined several other groups and organizations in issuing a demand that state Sen. Steve Huffman, R-Tipp City, resign for his comments about blacks in relation to COVID-19.
“To casually, and publicly, use segregationist language then imply that African Americans are somehow inherently less hygienic, or not intelligent enough to take precautions against COVID-19 is reprehensible,” county party Chairman Mark E. Owens said.
“We cannot tolerate racism in our legislature, and I am calling on everyone who is outraged to contact Senator Huffman to demand his resignation," Owens said in a prepared statement released tonight.
Also, the Columbus Dispatch is reporting that TeamHealth, a Tennessee company that provides outsourced physicians, has fired Huffman.
“Dr. Huffman’s comments are wholly inconsistent with our values and commitment to creating a tolerant and diverse workplace,” a spokesman said.
Thursday evening, Huffman offered a statement of apology via social media:
State Sen. Steve Huffman, R-Tipp City, issued a written apology for remarks that have been called offensive by groups that include the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio and Ohio Legislative Black Caucus. The ACLU of Ohio and other groups including the Service Employees International Union have called Huffman’s remarks racist and are calling for him to resign or be removed from office.
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Huffman was asked a question about why some African-Americans are being diagnosed with COVID-19 more than other groups of people, and used the phrase “colored population.”
“Could it just be that African Americans ... the colored population ... do not wash their hands as well as other groups?” Huffman said.
Huffman issued an apology Thursday saying, in part, “Regrettably, I asked a question in an unintentionally awkward way that was perceived as hurtful, and was exactly the opposite of what I meant.”
Huffman has worked as a contracted physician at both Upper Valley Medical Center and Wayne Hospital in the Miami Valley, according to his online biography on the state’s website.
“Premier Health condemns and does not tolerate racism or any kind of discrimination, and we have long-standing mechanisms in place to address expectations and accountability,” a spokesman with Premier Health, which operates Upper Valley Medical Center, said.
The ACLU of Ohio issued a statement Thursday demanding Huffman to either resign or be removed from office.
“There is no reality where he can remain a member of the Ohio General Assembly and make decisions that affect the very communities he undermines and clearly holds such contemptible attitudes,” J. Bennett Guess, Executive Director for the ACLU of Ohio said in the statement.
“The comments made by Ohio State Senator Steve Huffman have no place in our society and certainly have no place in the Ohio Senate," SEIU District 1199 President said in a emailed statement. “Senator Huffman’s statement is blatantly racist, and I am calling on him to immediately resign and issue to a sincere apology to people of color in our state and across our nation.”
We’ll continue to update this story as new details become available.