Controversial Surgeon General Jerome Adams Says Biden Admin Asked Him To Resign
In the earlier stages of the coronavirus pandemic, Adams said Black people should smoke and drink less to safeguard themselves from the virus.
January 20, 2021 at 5:18 pm
"I've been asked by the Biden team to step down as Surgeon General. Its been the honor of my life to serve this Nation, and I will do all I can to ensure everyone has an equal opportunity to achieve and maintain health," he wrote on Twitter.
I've been asked by the Biden team to step down as Surgeon General. Its been the honor of my life to serve this Nation, and I will do all I can to ensure everyone has an equal opportunity to achieve and maintain health. See my full statement at: https://t.co/pCkbpealt8— U.S. Surgeon General (@Surgeon_General) January 20, 2021
In a longer statement on Facebook, Adams called the position the "honor of my life" and went on to laud his accomplishments during his three years in the role.
"In the face of a once in a century pandemic, I sought to communicate the rapidly evolving science on this deadly adversary, and arm people with the knowledge and tools they needed to stay safe," he wrote. "I wasn’t always right- because no one was, and this virus continues to humble all of us- but I was always sincere in my efforts to speak to every day Americans, and address the terrible health inequities this virus exposed."
Biden has said he plans to replace Adams with the surgeon general who served under former President Barack Obama, Vivek Murthy.Adams became a household face thanks to his public service announcements and appearances at the White House podium. But he also drew controversy for defending President Donald Trump's unfounded claims about the virus and for making cringe-worthy comments while trying to appeal to Black people.
In April, when COVID-19 was peaking in major cities like New York, Chicago, New Orleans, St. Louis, Milwaukee and Detroit, Adams told Black Americans during a White House press briefing, "We need you to step up. Do it for your abuela, do it for your grandaddy, do it for your big mama, do it for your pop pop," Adams said.
He later added that Black people should smoke and drink less to be safer from the effects of the virus.
PBS NewsHour White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor immediately questioned Adams about the odd statement and the two got into a back and forth about deeper problems with Adams' message.
"We need to continue to target our outreach to those communities. It is critically important that they understand it's not just about them. It's not just about what you do, but you also are not helpless," Adams said.
As Blavity reported at the time, the statement caused outrage because it was becoming clear that certain co-morbidities found in higher rates in Black communities were causing a higher rate of death among Black people from COVID-19.
Many people took issue with the idea that Adams was effectively offloading responsibility for the high death rate onto Black people instead of the systemic racism that leaves millions of Black people in food deserts or the Trump administration's cartoonishly terrible response to the pandemic.From then on, Adams struggled to balance his duty to share effective COVID-19 guidelines against his duty to defend Trump's comments about the pandemic, which often sought to downplay the virus or dispute what doctors were saying.
He often contradicted Trump, sometimes during the very same briefing, on basic facts about the virus and its spread across the country.
Earlier this year, Trump said on Twitter that the "China Virus is far exaggerated" and disputed the death toll, which reached an all-time high of 77,000 deaths in December alone. The U.S. has more than 400,000 COVID-19 deaths, the highest figure in the world.
"From a public health perspective, I have no reason to doubt those numbers. And I think people need to be very aware that it's not just about the deaths, as we talked about earlier," Adams told CNN's Jake Tapper after being pressed about Trump's comments.
"It's about the hospitalizations, the capacity. These cases are having an impact in an array of ways and people need to understand there's a finish line in sight, but we've got to keep running toward it," he added.
The Washington Post noted that Murthy will have to go through confirmation hearings, so the incoming Biden administration will choose a new temporary surgeon general. They have decided against appointing Adams' deputy, Erica Schwartz, who told the newspaper she would be retiring due to the Biden administration's decision to go with someone else.
Trump caused controversy in 2017, according to ABC News, when he removed Murthy from the position despite the past surgeon general serving multiple administrations. The role puts a person in charge of the U.S. Public Health Service, which has more than 6,000 employees who work on public health initiatives.