'Got this one wrong': This anti-vax talk radio host changed his views after being hospitalized with COVID
For months, Phil Valentine — a right-wing talk radio host based in Nashville — downplayed the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic and spread anti-vaxxer views on his show, which airs on WWTN-FM. But now that Valentine has been infected with COVID-19 and is in the hospital fighting for his life, he is encouraging his listeners to get vaccinated.
Valentine's condition is serious. The radio host, according to the Daily Beast, is battling COVID pneumonia and is receiving supplemental oxygen.
But back in December 2020, Valentine wrote, "I'm not an anti-vaxxer. I'm just using common sense. What are my odds of getting COVID? They're pretty low. What are my odds of dying from Covid if I do get it? Probably way less than 1%. I'm doing what everyone should do and that's my own personal health risk assessment. If you have underlying health issues, you probably need to get the vaccine. If you're not at high risk of dying from COVID, then you're probably safer not getting it."
Such comments are quite different from what President Joe Biden and health experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci and CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta have been saying. Biden, Fauci and Gupta have been aggressively promoting vaccination for the COVID-19 coronavirus, stressing that the more Americans get vaccinated, the sooner the United States will be able to achieve some type of herd immunity and start to get back to normal.
But in the right-wing media, far-right extremists like Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham at Fox News have been frequent sources of anti-vaxxer misinformation. Carlson has claimed that Biden is trying to force Americans to get vaccinated for COVID-19 whether they like it or not, which is not what the president is doing.
On July 11, Valentine confirmed that he had been infected with COVID-19. And on July 21, Mark Valentine, the host's brother, went to Facebook and wrote that after seeing his brother "fighting for his life," he decided to get vaccinated.
Mark Valentine wrote, "Having seen this up close and personal, I'd encourage ALL of you to put politics and other concerns aside and get it." Mark Valentine now acknowledges that his brother "got this one wrong."
In June on his radio show, Phil Valentine played an anti-vaxxer parody of the Beatles' "Taxman" titled "Vaxman." But if the radio host had followed Biden and Fauci's advice and gotten vaccinated for COVID-19, perhaps he would have avoided getting infected with the deadly coronavirus — which, according to the Coronavirus Resource Center at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, has killed more than 4 million people worldwide. Or perhaps he would have been infected but had milder symptoms. And on June 24, Phil Valentine visited Facebook and posted, "Common sense told us that if you weren't at risk for COVID you shouldn't get the vaccine," promoting the conspiracy theory that is a link between COVID-19 vaccines and leukemia.
With COVID-19, "breakthrough" cases are possible—meaning that one is fully vaccinated but is infected nonetheless. Fauci and other medical experts, however, have been stressing that COVID-19 "breakthrough" infections are likely to be less serious than infections the unvaccinated suffer. For example, "Real Time" host Bill Maher was infected with COVID-19 despite being fully vaccinated. But it was a milder infection — unlike the one Phil Valentine has been suffering — and Maher is glad he got vaccinated.
Phil Valentine live in one of the red states with a low vaccination rate. According to the Mayo Clinic, only 44% of Tennessee residents have been at least partially vaccinated for COVID-19 — compared to 67% in Maine, 69% in Connecticut, 72% in Massachusetts or 75% in Sen. Bernie Sanders' adopted state, Vermont.
According to Mark Valentine, his brother now regrets not getting vaccinated for COVID-19. During a July 22 appearance on WWTN-FM, Mark Valentine told listeners, "For those listening, 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.'"
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