Early in the pandemic, right-wing radio show host Dennis Prager said he did not mind eating with utensils that had fallen on the ground. Now, after the virus has killed more than 700,000 Americans, Prager has revealed that he’s been actively trying to get a coronavirus infection all along.
On Monday, the 73-year-old host of "The Dennis Prager Show" told his audience that his plan worked. Prager said he tested positive for the coronavirus last week.
"I have engaged with strangers, constantly hugging them, taking photos with them knowing that I was making myself very susceptible to getting covid," he said. "Which is, indeed, as bizarre as it sounded, what I wanted, in the hope I would achieve natural immunity and be taken care of by therapeutics."
Contrary to studies and recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Prager told his audience that natural immunity was more effective than getting the vaccine, saying a covid infection was "what I hoped for the entire time." The CDC recommends that people get vaccinated even after contracting the virus - officials point to an August study that showed unvaccinated people who already had covid were twice as likely to be reinfected as those who had been fully vaccinated after contracting the virus.
Prager listed off a cocktail of therapeutics he said he had been taking over the course of the pandemic, many of which have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Since contracting the virus, he said, he has also received monoclonal antibodies, a treatment with the FDA's stamp of approval.
The host said he has been "steadily improving" since his diagnosis. Prager had not hosted his daily talk show since Tuesday of last week but said while broadcasting from his home on Monday "at no point was I in danger of hospitalization."
Prager is one of several conservative radio show hosts to spread misinformation about the coronavirus and vaccines, including some who later died of the virus.
In the past three months, at least five right-wing radio show hosts, all of whom discouraged their listeners from taking the vaccine, have died of covid-19. The most recent was Bob Enyart, 62, who in the weeks leading to his infection told listeners to boycott the shots while pushing the debunked claim that the coronavirus vaccines are made from aborted fetus cells.
After contracting the virus in July, conservative radio host and vaccine skeptic Phil Valentine said on Facebook he was "going to make it." About six weeks later, he died at 61. Following Valentine's death, his family said the radio host had changed his mind about vaccines and would have used his platform to encourage listeners to get vaccinated.
The deaths put a spotlight on the role right-wing hosts have played in the spreading of coronavirus misinformation as vaccination rates continue to deviate based on partisan beliefs. A September survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 52.8 percent of people in counties that voted for Joe Biden are fully vaccinated, versus about 39.9 percent in those that went for Trump.
Prager, an outspoken supporter of former president Donald Trump, is the founder of Prager University, a nonprofit that produces short videos aimed at popularizing conservative ideas. During the pandemic, he has falsely compared the coronavirus to the flu and to snakebites.
Days before he announced he had tested positive, Prager was in Colorado, where he spoke at a campaign event for Heidi Ganahl, a Republican running for governor. Officials with her campaign told KUSA they were not aware of Prager's plan to get infected with the coronavirus.
“We are reaching out to all those who attended to make sure they are informed,” Ganahl’s campaign told the station. “We encourage those who attended . . . to get tested and follow CDC guidelines if they experience any Covid-like symptoms.”