The racist comments came during a hearing on Tuesday that regional outlet Columbus Dispatch says was focused on the possibility of declaring racism a public health crisis in the state.
"Could it just be that African Americans—the colored population—do not wash their hands as well as other groups?" Sen. Steve Huffman said when discussing COVID-19 rates. "Or wear a mask? Or do not socially distance themselves? Could that just be maybe the explanation of why there's a higher incidence?"
In response, Angela Dawson—the executive director of the Ohio Commission on Minority Health—stated the following:
That is not the opinion of leading medical experts in this country.
As other political leaders in the state started decrying the obvious racism present in Huffman's comments, he issued a non-apology in which he expressed regret over how his comments were perceived.
"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, a white man (and doctor!) who used the word "colored," later said. "I 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."
Following his comments, calls are growing for Huffman to resign: