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Director of Missouri health department resigns following conservative backlash

New DHSS Director - Donald G. Kauerauf.jpg
Posted at 6:25 PM, Feb 01, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-01 19:25:12-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Missouri Gov. Mike Parson announced Tuesday that he accepted the resignation of Department of Health and Senior Services Director Don Kauerauf after a conservative outcry blocked his confirmation.

State senators on Tuesday adjourned for the week without taking up Director Don Kauerauf's nomination. The deadline to confirm him is Friday, and he'll be barred from serving after then.

Parson released a statement Tuesday regarding the Missouri Senate's failure to confirm Kauerauf.

"It's unfortunate that we now have to disrupt state operations and the leadership at an entire department because the Missouri Senate chose to indulge a few men's egos," Parson said in the statement. "The events that have transpired over the past few days surrounding Don's Senate confirmation hearing are nothing short of disgraceful, unquestionably wrong, and an embarrassment to this state and the people we serve."

Parson said that Kauerauf opposes government mask and COVID-19 vaccine mandates. He also said that Kauerauf is "outspokenly pro-life and morally opposed to abortion."

"Missourians know that I share these beliefs and would not have nominated someone who does not share the same Christian values," Parson said in the statement. "Yet, Senators chose to believe baseless rumors and outright lies on social media rather than the facts in front of them."

Senators and protesters were upset that he's encouraging vaccines and questioned how strong his personal anti-abortion beliefs are.

Parson goes on to allege that some of the senators from his own Republican party were "tarnishing a man's character by feeding misinformation, repeating lies, and disgracing 35 years of public health experience."

"Throughout this process, more care was given to political gain than the harm caused to a man and his family. Don is a devoted public servant who did not deserve this, and Missourians deserve better," Parson said in the statement. "I pray that honor, integrity, and order can be returned to the Missouri Senate and that it comes sooner rather than later."

Kauerauf took over as the state’s health director in September after his predecessor, Randall Williams, left the job in April 2021 without publicly citing a reason.

Parson temporarily appointed Richard Moore to lead the department as acting director, so that the state will not be without a health director, according to a release from the governor's office. Moore has been serving as general counsel for DHSS.