(CNN) — Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin has appointed a political foe of the vaccination movement as her top security adviser, an appointment that civil rights advocates criticized as setting a dangerous precedent in the state.
Fallin’s office said Friday that she named Mike Hamilton, a former Marine and former special assistant to Oklahoma City Thunder basketball star Kevin Durant, as lieutenant colonel in the state National Guard. The move comes after Fallin chose not to renew Lt. Gen. D.T. Scott’s commission when his term ends in July.
Hamilton will take over as interim commander of the Oklahoman National Guard on May 1, while Fallin seeks a permanent replacement, a spokesman for the governor said.
Fallin’s office said Tuesday that she had chosen Scott, who had been her National Guard commander, to be her alternate in the two-star general ranks.
Hamilton’s nomination drew criticism from civil rights advocates, who said he would help enforce a anti-vaccination agenda. They said he shared Fallin’s opposition to mandatory vaccinations for children in the Oklahoma National Guard.
“It was unconscionable and appalling that the governor would appoint a strong anti-vaccination advocate to the state National Guard. The nature of his appointment, which puts him in charge of the National Guard should be enough to prove to anyone that the governor doesn’t hold the interests of Oklahomans in mind,” said Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, who represents the state’s Democratic minority.
Fallin’s office said the governor stands behind the selection, adding that Hamilton was recently chosen by the Oklahoma War College to conduct a study on the state’s healthcare system and will play a leadership role in the governor’s child wellness initiatives.
The Oklahoma National Guard has struggled with recent reports of a severe measles outbreak in 2016, when 45 percent of the guard’s members were ill with the infectious disease, Fallin’s office said.
Fallin’s decision to promote a member of the anti-vaccination movement did not go over well with the American Academy of Pediatrics.
“It’s baffling why the governor would pick a leader who has a track record of speaking and acting against the well-documented medical and public health benefits of vaccines, especially when she could have chosen someone who isn’t a threat to vaccination rates,” the organization said in a statement on its website.
Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin, a Republican, nominated the same person this week to serve as the state’s vice commander in charge of the National Guard Bureau. Kentucky is currently going through the process of appointing the people who will fill the ranks of the five-star general positions.
The leader of the Kentucky National Guard, Col. Robert LeDoux, has said he hopes to make an announcement next week about his new position.
Hamilton is president of the Oklahoman Post, which is part of a conservative Christian news site with an “invincible biblical worldview.” According to CNN, Hamilton holds views that include promoting prayer rather than vaccinations, backing science denial and opposing the legalization of same-sex marriage.
Officials in Oklahoma could not be reached for comment Friday on the decision to appoint Hamilton to the National Guard.
The case against pharmaceutical companies for their role in spreading vaccine hesitancy is being debated in the courts.
Hamilton’s appointment has drawn criticism from a Kentucky organization that advocates for mandating school vaccinations.
Mealworks of Kentucky said in a statement Friday that it was “extremely concerned” about Hamilton’s new appointment, saying that those advocating for state mandates on vaccines face an uphill battle against entrenched interests.
“We call on Governor Bevin to immediately rescind his selection of Lt. Col. Hamilton to be the interim commanding general and vice commander of the Kentucky National Guard,” the organization said.