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In the last three months, five conservative talk show hosts have died from COVID

Over the last few months, no less than five conservative radio talk show hosts who urged their audiences to avoid vaccines for COVID-19 have died from the virus.

Phil Valentine's brother said the conservative radio host regretted not encouraging his listeners to get vaccinated, and that he would have done so if he had managed to get back on the air. He died of COVID in August.
Phil Valentine's brother said the conservative radio host regretted not encouraging his listeners to get vaccinated, and that he would have done so if he had managed to get back on the air. He died of COVID in August.John Partipilo / The Tennessean/Associated Press

It’s not a good time to be an ivory-billed woodpecker.

Or a conservative radio talk show host.

As for those woodpeckers, they’re gone, officially declared extinct a few weeks ago by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, along with 22 other species.

“The circumstances of each also underscore how human activity can drive species decline and extinction,” the federal agency said.

They could have added, “as does human inactivity,” such as refusing to take a vaccine.

Take, for example, the fate of some conservative talk radio hosts around the country, those who proudly refuse to get vaccinated for COVID-19 and encourage their listeners to avoid masks and vaccines. They are dying, and I don’t mean in the ratings.

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In the last three months, no fewer than five conservative talk show hosts, whose schtick included actively discouraging listeners from getting vaccinated, have died from the virus.

Bob Enyart, the Denver-based host of the hilariously titled “Real Science Radio Show,” made his bad-boy reputation by advocating for the death penalty for women who have abortions, and liked to read on-air the obituaries of those who died from AIDS, accompanied by the soundtrack of Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust.” Enyart was fond of telling his listeners, many of whom are opposed to abortion, that the COVID vaccines are made from cells harvested from aborted fetuses.

It wasn’t true, but that didn’t stop Enyart from peddling misinformation, endangering thousands. Enyart died of COVID last month at 62.

Marc Bernier, a talk show host from Daytona Beach who billed himself “Mr. Anti-Vax,” compared government vaccination initiatives to Nazi policies. He died of COVID in late August. He was 65.

Another Florida-based talk show host, Dick Farrel, 65, who also had a show on Newsmax TV, called the pandemic a “scamdemic” and described vaccines as poison. He died from COVID in early August.

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Within days of each other in August, Phil Valentine, a talk show host in Nashville who trivialized vaccines, and Jimmy DeYoung Sr., another conservative radio show host from Tennessee who bogusly claimed the Pfizer vaccine made women sterile, died from COVID.

There has been at least one death-bed conversion. Valentine’s brother Mark said Valentine regretted not encouraging his listeners to get vaccinated, and that he would have done so if he had managed to get back on the air. He never got the chance.

As Mark Valentine told The Tennessean newspaper, “I know if he were able to tell you this, he would tell you, ‘Go get vaccinated. Quit worrying about the politics. Quit worrying about all the conspiracy theories.’ He regrets not being more adamant about getting the vaccine.”

But aside from Valentine, and the suggestion that having a talk show in Florida or Tennessee puts you at a statistically higher risk to die from COVID, the most startling thing about this constellation of death among conservative talk show hosts is that so many other on-air vaccine skeptics are not changing their minds or their rhetoric.

If anything, they’re doubling down. Or taking different tacks. Take, for example, Dennis Prager, the 73-year-old radio host of an eponymous nationally syndicated show. Even as his contemporaries were dropping like flies, Prager proudly announced that he had been hugging strangers, with the express purpose of contracting COVID-19.

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Last week, he got his wish, announcing without a trace of embarrassment that he had tested positive for the virus.

Prager, who has compared the effects of COVID-19 to contracting the flu or being bitten by a snake, said his intention all along was to contract COVID so he could develop “natural immunity.”

Doctors and scientists acknowledge natural immunity exists, but say inoculation is much safer. But then doctors and scientists are among the least likely professions to turn up on talk radio shows, unless they’re quacks hyping bogus remedies or books.

These radio shows have millions of listeners, including many of those most vulnerable to the virus. How long before those listeners realize they’ve been sold a bunch of baloney?

I wouldn’t hold your breath.


Kevin Cullen is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at kevin.cullen@globe.com.