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Dr. apologizes for Obama joke

obama-witchdoctor-2.jpg

By Carol Gentry
7/24/2009 Health News Florida

St. Petersburg neurosurgeon David McKalip apologized Thursday night for forwarding an e-mail that included a picture of President Obama dressed like a witchdoctor in a loincloth and feather headdress, with bones in his nose. It bears the legend: “Obama-Care, coming soon to a clinic near you.” 

“I genuinely regret the decision I made in passing this e-mail message along," McKalip wrote. "Directly to President Obama, I sincerely apologize for offending him. This was, in no way whatsoever, my intention."
McKalip, who is active in the anti-tax movement and a strong opponent of government involvement in health care, forwarded the picture to a Tea Party listserv with the comment: “Funny Stuff.” Someone who saw it sent it to others, and soon it was a subject of national debate.
 
On Thursday, the matter was prominently played on two popular political Web sites, Talking Points Memo and Daily Kos. Some bloggers urged others to protest to the American Medical Association, where McKalip has served as a delegate; the Florida Medical Association, where he sits on the board of governors and chairs the medical economics committee; and hospitals where he practices. 

The organizations all issued statements of disapproval. The strongest came from FMA, which begins its annual meeting in Boca Raton today: 

”The Florida Medical Association is an organization with a zero-tolerance for racist or discriminatory behavior. As such, we do not condone the circulation of what has been described by the press as a racist depiction of President Obama by David McKalip, MD. Dr. McKalip’s actions do not in any way reflect the positions, attitudes or culture of the Florida Medical Association. 

”The Florida Medical Association finds the actions by Dr. McKalip to be hurtful and in poor judgment. Further, we find his actions disrespectful to President Obama and the Office of the President. The Florida Medical Association is disappointed by Dr. McKalip’s actions and urges Dr. McKalip to extend President Obama an apology for this egregious deed.” 

McKalip responded with a press release that included the apology and continued: 

"The image has nothing to do with my feelings or thoughts on any race or culture. I recognize that this image is offensive and hope that the nation refocuses on assuring all Americans have access to high-quality, affordable health care with no party interfering in the patient-physician relationship.
 
"My intention is to focus directly on the issue at hand, which is putting financial and decision-making power into the hands of patients and taking it from government and insurance companies,” said McKalip.

In an e-mail to Health News Florida,  McKalip wrote, “I am disappointed that people are resorting to these tactics. I guess that happens when you are effective at working to protect patients from government and insurance company rationing of health care.” 

McKalip signed his e-mail with the phrase "Individual Freedom – Hard to earn. Easy to lose." 

--Carol Gentry can be reached at 727-410-3266 or by e-mail.