Former Kansas health secretary Lee Norman said Gov. Laura Kelly’s administration asked him to resign and compared his treatment to that of Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, by former President Donald Trump.
Norman’s comments came in an interview with the Kansas News Service published Tuesday night.
“The shameful treatment in the Trump administration of public health leaders, I think, set the stage for having the same thing happen at the state level,” Norman said. “(Anthony) Fauci was Fauci’d. And to be honest with you, I think I was Fauci’d.
Norman declined an interview with The Star, citing objections to an editorial published after he resigned from his post in Kelly’s cabinet.
Kelly played down reports of conflict with Norman in comments Monday, saying his departure was not what “the press has made it out to be.”
“He was leading the agency that was in the fire for a year and a half, almost two years,” Kelly told reporters Monday. “There comes a time when you’ve given it all you can give and it happens at a time when we’re actually transitioning from a sort of in-the-trenches, responsive pandemic to moving towards more of a steady state.”
Emails first reported on by the Kansas Reflector and obtained by The Star showed friction between Norman and the Kelly administration over how best to communicate with the public about the pandemic.
Kelly’s Chief of Staff, Will Lawrence, expressed concerns about Norman’s public appearances in emails to the secretary and directed him to avoid speaking on policy matters.
Lawrence said Norman’s statements at KU Health Briefings, where he said the virus would not “magically” go away and federal aid would continue without a state of emergency, undermined the administration’s efforts to extend the COVID-10 emergency order.
Kansas’ new health secretary, Janet Stanek, will begin next week.