Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center has terminated a top executive for Facebook posts that bashed President Trump's response to the Covid-19 outbreak.
Laura Krolczyk, Roswell Park's vice president for external affairs, was initially placed on administrative leave from her position but was fired following the conclusion of an investigation into her remarks, spokeswoman Annie Deck-Miller confirmed Saturday.
Hauptman Woodward Medical Research Institute has placed Lisa LaTrovato, its director of development, on leave for her comments in the Facebook exchange with Krolczyk, the institute told The Buffalo News.
The institutions acted after the exchange between the two drew criticism once Republican operative Michael Caputo shared it widely through his Twitter account on Friday.
Both Krolczyk and LaTrovato worked for Democratic elected officials before moving into their positions at the medical and research organizations: Krolczyk for Hillary Clinton and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and LaTrovato for Louise Slaughter.
The exchange – according to screen grabs posted by Caputo – began when Krolczyk posted a link to an article by the Hill news site about the Trump administration's reluctance to pay $1 billion to General Motors and Ventec for ventilator production.
Krolczyk shared the article with a comment: "Vote Trump."
LaTrovato responded: "But will waste more than that on a wall and space force."
Krolczyk replied: "Trump supporters need to pledge to give up their ventilators for someone else ... and not go to the hospital."
LaTrovato responded: "I think they should be the only ones in packed churches on Sunday."
Krolczyk then said: "They should barricade themselves in there and ride this out."
LaTrovato replied: "Yup."
Later, another Facebook user wrote: "Wow, just wow, so your saying we decide who lives and dies based on political views? Great plan (thumbs up emoji)."
Krolczyk responsed: "That's literally what he's saying. Take your 'wow' and comprehend what your hero is saying. Your hero is saying YOU don't need a ventilator. So don't take one."
Krolczyk added: "Also don't cash your stimulus check. It's all a hoax. Chew some ibuprofen and be on with your day."
Caputo shared the exchanges and urged his 37,000 Twitter followers to raise their concerns directly with the two institutions.
"Is it your public health policy to assure Trump voters are infected with COVID?" Caputo asked of the two organizations.
Roswell Park responded a short time later with a statement saying the remarks by Krolczyk, who was not named, were "inappropriate."
"They do not reflect the opinions of Roswell Park or its senior leadership," CEO Candace S. Johnson said in the statement.
The institution later added: "This behavior is not tolerated at Roswell Park. If any team members act in a way that does not accord with that commitment, we will take swift and appropriate action, just as we did in this instance."
Krolczyk earned $226,580 in 2019, according to the SeeThroughNY database of public payroll records.
Joseph Lorigo, the Erie County Legislature's minority leader, said he reached out to Roswell Park after receiving complaints from constituents about the Facebook exchange.
He said Johnson returned his call promptly and assured him the cancer center took the matter seriously and had placed Krolczyk on leave right away.
"I think Dr. Johnson handled it appropriately," Lorigo said, adding that a partisan exchange of this nature isn't needed amid a national crisis.
Caputo echoed this sentiment later on Saturday.
Roswell Park "has taken this seriously, proving they have zero tolerance for sick partisan comments about a public health crisis," he tweeted. "All Roswell administration employees must take a lesson from this and (Johnson) should be commended for her leadership."
Hauptman Woodward on Saturday issued a statement that emphasized the remarks were made by the unnamed executive on a personal Facebook account.
"HWI leadership is addressing this regrettable personnel matter directly with the individual involved, who has been placed on administrative leave pending further internal review," the nonprofit research institute said.