- At least seven radio hosts and high-profile anti-mask and anti-vaccine advocates have died from COVID-19 in recent weeks.
- The men are radio hosts Dick Farrel, Phil Valentine, Bob Enyart, and Marc Bernier, as well as former CIA officer Robert David Steele, anti-masker Caleb Wallace, and conservative leader Pressley Stutts.
- Misinformation around the virus and vaccines remains widespread as cases continue to rise.
At least seven conservative radio hosts and high-profile anti-mask and anti-vaccine advocates have died from COVID-19 in recent weeks.
Before catching COVID-19, the men — radio hosts Bob Enyart, Dick Farrel, Phil Valentine, and Marc Bernier, as well as former CIA officer and conspiracy theorist Robert David Steele, anti-masker Caleb Wallace, and South Carolina GOP conservative leader Pressley Stutts — had shared conspiracy theories about vaccines, told supporters misinformation about the virus, and even held rallies in opposition to mask mandates.
As COVID-19 cases continue to surge, nearly all of the COVID-19 deaths in the United States are among unvaccinated people, and misinformation around the virus and vaccines remains widespread.
Bob Enyart had refused to get vaccinated before dying of COVID-19.
Enyart, a conservative pastor who hosted a show called “Real Science Radio,” died on Monday, his cohost, Fred Williams, said in a Facebook post.
It’s unclear exactly when Enyart tested positive for COVID-19, but his Facebook page said he was hospitalized with the virus on September 10.
The radio host from Colorado had vocally refused to get vaccinated and actively spread false claims about the COVID-19 virus, saying overcrowding in hospital ICUs was “imagined” and that the severity of the pandemic was “fake news,” according to The Daily Beast.
Amid COVID-19 shutdowns last year, he successfully sued the state of Colorado over its capacity limits and mask mandates in churches.
Prior to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Enyart mocked AIDS victims and called for women who have had abortions to face the death penalty, according to The Guardian.
Florida radio host Dick Farrel had advocated against the COVID-19 vaccine on Facebook before his death.
Farrel Austin Levitt, known publicly as conservative talk show host Dick Farrel, died of “severe damage” caused by COVID-19 in early August, his fiancee and life partner Kittie Farley told the Washington Post. He was 65.
Before getting sick, he had called COVID-19 vaccines “bogus” and called Dr. Anthony Fauci a “power-tripping lying freak” before his death.
“Why take a vax promoted by people who lied 2u all along about masks, where the virus came from and the death toll?” he wrote in a Facebook post in July.
—Human Scum vaxxed and relaxed (@terrycoco1) August 30, 2021
But his friends said he actually encouraged them to get vaccinated after he got sick.
“He is the reason I took the shot,” Amy Leigh Hair, Farrel’s close friend, told WPTV, an NBC News affiliate. “He texted me and told me to ‘Get it!’ He told me this virus is no joke and he said, ‘I wish I had gotten it!’ “
Radio host Phil Valentine changed his views on the COVID-19 vaccine before his death.
Valentine, a 61-year-old conservative radio host and vaccine skeptic in Tennessee, died of COVID-19 in mid-August.
Valentine, who said his chances of dying from the virus were “way less than one percent” in December 2020, announced he tested positive for COVID-19 on July 11, and less than two weeks later, he became hospitalized with the virus.
His radio station, 99.7 WTN, announced his hospitalization.
“Phil would like for his listeners to know that while he has never been an ‘anti-vaxxer’ he regrets not being more vehemently ‘pro-vaccine,’ and looks forward to being able to more vigorously advocate that position as soon as he is back on the air, which we all hope will be soon,” the station said.
And after Valentine got sick, he changed his view on vaccines, his brother, Mark Valentine, told WBUR.
“Take politics out of it. It’s time for us to get together and fight this thing collectively,” he said. “Just put all the conspiracies and microchips and all that business aside and go get vaccinated and don’t put your family through what his wife and the rest of us are going through.”
Valentine, who was hospitalized with pneumonia caused by COVID-19, died a month after falling ill.
Marc Bernier, a radio host in Florida, said on air that he opposed vaccines before dying of COVID-19.
WNDB radio host Bernier had voiced anti-vaccine opinions on air before his death in late August.
“I’m not taking it,” he said when asked about the COVID-19 during a segment of his show in December 2020, according to USA Today. “Are you kidding me? Mr. Anti-Vax? Jeepers.”
—News Daytona Beach (@NewsDaytonaBch) August 29, 2021
Mel Stack, an attorney and friend of Bernier, told USA Today that Bernier’s anti-vaccine opinions weren’t politically based but instead based on how he believed other vaccines had impacted people close to him.
Former CIA officer Robert David Steele died from COVID-19 after spreading COVID-denial conspiracy theories.
Steele, a former CIA officer who pushed baseless QAnon theories and spread COVID-19 misinformation online, also died from COVID-19, his friend Mark Tassi announced on August 29 on Instagram.
But he had spread anti-vaccine and COVID-19-denial conspiracy theories on his blog throughout the pandemic, Vice reported.
—David Gilbert (@daithaigilbert) August 30, 2021
“I will not take the vaccination, though I did test positive for whatever they’re calling ‘COVID’ today, but the bottom line is that my lungs are not functioning,” he wrote in a blog post on August 17.
Accompanying the blog post was a photo of Steele apparently hooked up to a ventilator.
“The good news is that I will survive with a few days off. I should be back up and at least functional soon,” he wrote.
Days later, he died from the virus.
Caleb Wallace, an anti-masker who previously protested against COVID-19 safety measures, died after spending a month in the hospital.
Wallace, a 30-year-old father of three, died of COVID-19 in late August.
In 2020, Wallace helped organize rallies to protest against COVID-19 safety measures, including lockdowns and masks, which he called “COVID tyranny.”
His wife, Jessica Wallace, told the San Angelo Standard-Times that Wallace started showing symptoms in July and opted to treat himself with ivermectin — a horse de-wormer that CDC has warned should not be used to treat COVID-19 — as well as high doses of vitamin C,
, aspirin, and an inhaler before seeking professional medical care when his condition deteriorated.
—Eric Feigl-Ding (@DrEricDing) August 29, 2021
He was taken to an intensive care unit at Shannon Medical Centre, where he spent weeks on a ventilator.
His wife said on a GoFundMe page that he died on August 28.
“He was an imperfect man but he loved his family and his little girls more than anything,” his wife wrote on the GoFundMe page.
Pressley Stutts, a South Carolina conservative group leader, died after making fun of masks.
Stutts, chair of the Greenville Tea Party, died from COVID-19 in August after making false statements about the virus and downplaying the importance of mask-wearing.
Among other comments, Stutts called face masks an “illusion” in a Facebook post, cheered on unvaccinated doctors and nurses, and even downplayed the virus while hospitalized with COVID in early August.
—Cleavon MD ? (@Cleavon_MD) August 21, 2021
“COVID is nothing to fool with and in as much as possible, it is up to you to take the best precautions for you and your family to avoid getting it,” he said from an ICU bed.
Two weeks later, he changed his views and called the virus “hell on earth.”
“When you have to take every single ounce just to get your next breath, you know you are in the battle for your life!” he wrote in that Facebook post. “I IMPLORE YOU….PLEASE PRAY THAT GOD MOVES MIGHTILY IN MY BODY. ISOLATED. DON’T KNOW HOW MUCH LONGER I CAN ENDURE WITHOUT YOUR PRAYERS. SERIOUSLY!”