John Wright

Florida GOP official who wanted to 'end Faucism' dies from COVID-19

An official from Florida's Hillsborough County Republican Party — which has been busy mobilizing members to protest coronavirus restrictions such as school mask mandates — has died from COVID-19.

Now, the GOP official's friends and colleagues are spreading wild conspiracy theories about the "engineered virus," and alleging he was "illegally intubated" at a local hospital, according to a report from the Tampa Bay Times.

Gregg Prentice, a software developer who headed the local party's "election integrity" committee, recently checked in to Tampa General Hospital after experiencing "brain fog" and difficulty breathing, according to his friend, Jason Kimball. Prentice was placed on a ventilator and died the next day.

"Two days after Prentice's death, Kimball called for an investigation into Tampa General during the public comment period of the Tampa City Council meeting and accused the hospital of 'intubating people illegally,'" the Tampa Bay Times reports. "The remarks from Kimball earned a strong rebuke from members of the City Council who swiftly defended the hospital as a world-class medical institution. John Dingfelder called Kimball's comments 'very dangerous.'"

On Facebook, Kimball wrote: "Tampa General Hospital ER and ICU doctors are criminals and murderers!!! They intubate everyone and stick them on a ventilator for NO REASON just 'out of precaution' as the doctor told me - WITHOUT consent from the family!!! Tampa General Hospital is evil."

"We have a genetically engineered virus spreading around Florida," Kimball added. "We lost Gregg Prentice, a mentor to many in Hillsborough County, due to the engineered virus."

Prentice himself railed against local COVID-19 restrictions on his Facebook page last year.

"I am just hearing that our County Administrator Mike Merrill has PROHIBITED gatherings of more than 50 people?!?!?!" Prentice wrote in March 2020. "What is his problem? How in the world does he take a CDC 'suggestion' and a Presidential 'recommendation' and turn it into a Merrill PROHIBITION?!?!? This kind of stupid isn't limited to a single topic. And what are we going to do about it? He needs to be gone."

A month later, Prentice wrote, "We need more socialist distancing than we do social distancing."

"End Faucism," he wrote in May 2020.

The Tampa Bay Times notes that the Hillsborough County Republican Party recently hosted anti-mask, anti-vaxx Georgia Republican Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene at its annual fundraiser — a maskless indoor event that went against CDC recommendations. Prentice also recently appeared on a podcast during which the host referred to COVID-19 as a "plandemic" and said it was designed to "crush small businesses and consolidate power in the multinational corporations."

During his many years working for the party, Prentice focused heavily on Florida's voter databases — often levying "severe accusations" at elections supervisors in Democratic counties, with his work drawing the attention of national conservative groups and GOP officials, who consulted with him when writing legislation. As head of the election integrity committee, Prentice led efforts to question election results in various counties, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

"The Hillsborough County GOP has called for a review of the 2020 election in Florida — a state former President Donald Trump won by more than 3 percentage points — similar to the partisan recount unfolding in Arizona," the newspaper reported.

Funeral worker details devastating toll of COVID on 'unrecognizable' bodies

While the plight of healthcare workers has gotten a lot of attention throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, relatively few media reports have addressed the impact on licensed embalmers who work in the funeral-home industry.

One Texas-based embalmer of 30 years, Patrick Huey, writes that his profession is currently "at a breaking point" due to the pandemic, in a column published Monday by the Huffington Post.

Huey also describes the devastating toll of COVID on the bodies of victims, including swelling and infections that make them "unrecognizable" to their loved ones. And he urges people to get vaccinated, in part to help relieve the enormous strain on workers like himself.

"I don't know how much longer I can keep working this way," Huey writes. "I'll never throw my hands up and just say 'screw this!' If the good Lord calls me home and I drop dead at the embalming table, then I guess that'll make for a day off."

At the beginning of the pandemic, embalmers weren't sure if they could safely work on the bodies of COVID victims — but they are now doing so with personal protective equipment. Huey explains that funeral homes prefer to embalm bodies because they can then be stored without refrigeration — and in many places including his mortuary, the freezers are full.

From late November through mid-March, when Texas experienced its first COVID wave, Huey said embalmers were pulling 22- and 36-hour shifts, and 65 percent of bodies were COVID victims.

"We've just had to buckle down and do the best that we can," he writes. "The Internet has been a blessing because it allows all of us embalmers to communicate and find out what issues everyone is having because so much of this has been unlike anything we've seen before. We get bodies out of ICU regularly, but not in the condition that these COVID bodies are in."

He goes on to describe in graphic detail how the bodies of COVID victims are "tremendously swollen" with "huge legions" on their cheeks that have "gone gangrene" and blood clots "the size of pancakes." Despite specializing in post-mortem reconstruction of trauma victims, Huey says there's little he can do in these cases.

"The sad part is the families of these people, at that point, hadn't been allowed to see their loved ones during the several weeks that they were in the ICU," he writes. "So the body comes out in an almost unrecognizable condition, and then you have to explain to their family that their loved one doesn't look anything like what they should. ... And for a lot of these families, it's just a tremendous shock."

During the latest Texas COVID surge, fueled by the Delta variant, Huey said he's noticed more victims in their 30s, 40s and 50s because most seniors are vaccinated. The victims are also dying faster and spending less time in the ICU, which is actually a "benefit" to embalmers because their bodies are in better condition. Huey says he's currently working 19 to 20 hours on the first day of his two-day shifts, and rarely gets to see his family. His mortuary will sometimes receive an unprecedented 10 bodies a day, and about 85 percent of them are COVID victims.

"Seeing so many of these people who have passed away who shouldn't have died in the first place and the husbands and wives passing within days of each other ― on top of just the mass volume ― is a lot to deal with," he said, adding that embalmers are also constantly worried about their own safety. "Although we try to distance ourselves professionally as much as possible while doing our jobs, it wears on us. There are a lot of us that definitely have some PTSD ― or just traumatic stress. It's really, really hard."

Huey's mortuary recently received a large FEMA refrigeration trailer after its freezers holding 120 bodies became full. He says if they run out of refrigeration space, they'll have to embalm all of the bodies or bury them within 24 hours — which is a problem given a "major shortage" of embalmers in Texas.

Despite precautions, many embalmers have died from COVID, and some recent mortuary school graduates have quit because they couldn't handle it after getting slammed with coronavirus victims, Huey writes.

"[The embalmers] are just doing the best that we can, and I wish that people would just do the best that they can to stay safe," Huey writes. "I want everyone to take this seriously and to remember that the repercussions of their actions run downhill, and we funeral professionals are down near the bottom of that hill.

"Lastly, I'll just say I wish this would quit being such a political thing," he adds. "People want to blame one party or the other, and I don't know what the answer is. I do know that the studies have shown the vaccination works and I wish more people would get it. And sometimes we have to have our freedoms infringed upon just a little bit for the betterment of the entire population. We're just trying to do our part ― and we wish everyone else would do the same."

Unvaccinated woman sent a chilling TikTok video from her hospital bed – she died of COVID just days later

A TikTok creator has died from COVID-19 after urging people to get vaccinated in her final video, filmed in her hospital bed.

"I don't have a lot of energy for talking, so I'm going to try to make this quick," Alexandra Blankenbiller said in the video, shared Aug. 15 with her 15,000 followers. "I did not get vaccinated. I'm not anti-vax; I was just trying to do my research. I was scared, and I wanted me and my family to all do it at the same time. As I'm sure you guys know, it's hard to get everyone to agree on something if people feel differently."

Unvaccinated woman sent a chilling TikTok video from her hospital bed – she died of COVID days later

"I do think it was a mistake," she added. "I shouldn't have waited. If you are even 70 percent sure that you want the vaccine, go get it. Don't wait. Go get it. Because hopefully if you get it, then you won't end up in the hospital like me. It's not saying that you'll not get COVID, it's just a layer of protection so hopefully it's not as severe."

According to, the 31-year-old Blankenbiller died nine days later at Orange County Medical Center in her home state of Florida, and her family blames "misinformation."

"Like many Americans, Blankenbiller had been hesitant to get the vaccine," WebMD reported Tuesday. "She had read conflicting information about the available COVID-19 shots, and she and her family didn't want to get immunized until everyone was on board. ... When they all agreed to get their shots, Blankenbiller, along with her mother and two sisters, made their appointments. But they fell ill before their scheduled time slots."

Blankenbiller's sister, Rachel Blankenbiller, said: "Her final video really showed a lot of who she was. She was selfless -- the type of person who used her final days to help others."

Alec Hadden, director of Blankenbiller's a cappella singing group, added: "She cared deeply about helping others, and I think it was that compassion for others that drove her to try and educate people through her final few videos. She did not want anyone, even a stranger watching her videos on TikTok, to go through the pain and heartache that she and others on the COVID ward were going through. And if she could help even one person, she would."

WebMD noted that Blankenbiller's last four videos were all filmed in the hospital.

"In a chilling video from Aug. 13, there were screams coming from another room. Blankenbiller looked scared," the site reported.

Watch the videos below.

Ivanka's shoemaker racks up $1.5 million in unpaid rent as Trump Tower tenants ‘implode’: report

Tenants at Trump Tower in New York City — once "a physical avatar" of the former president's alleged business success — are "imploding," falling behind on rent and vacating entire floors, with some mired in lawsuits.

The Washington Post reported Friday that Trump Tower tenants who are behind on rent include Marc Fisher Footwear, the manufacturer of Ivanka Trump's shuttered shoe brand, as well as Marcraft, which sold $1,400 Trump-branded suits in the heyday of his "Apprentice" TV show.

"But through all that — as Trump Tower has dealt with imploding tenants, political backlash and a broader, pandemic-related slump in Manhattan office leasing since last year — it has been able to count on one reliable, high-paying tenant: former president Donald Trump's own political operation," the Post reported, referring to his Make America Great Again PAC, which has paid nearly $37,000 in rent since March. "This may not be the most efficient use of donors' money: The person familiar with Trump's PAC said that its staffers do not regularly use the office space."

Campaign finance experts said while the arrangement isn't illegal, it shows Trump "is continuing his practice exploiting loose regulations — and his own supporters' trust — to convert political donations into private revenue for himself."

"He's running a con," Common Cause's Paul Ryan told the Post. "Talking about political expenses — but, in reality, raising money for self-enrichment."

The 12 leased floors of Trump Tower serve as collateral for a $100 million loan — one of Trump's largest debts that is due in full next year.

Marc Fisher Footwear, which made Ivanka's shoes, has racked up $1.5 million in unpaid rent, according to a lawsuit filed by the Trump Organization.

Marcraft, the suitmaker, is $664,000 behind on rent and is merely a "carcass" after filing for bankruptcy in New Jersey, saying its only assets were $40.75 in a checking account and "1,200 damaged coats."

Legacy Business School, which was once led by Kardashian family matriarch Kris Jenner and charged $70,000 in annual tuition, owes $198,000 in unpaid rent and has "fallen into turmoil."

All told, the Trump Tower's 12 leased floors are currently 75 percent occupied, the lowest level since 2013.

Watch: GOP senator blasts Trump for 'completely unacceptable' behavior and says he shouldn't be 2024 nominee

Pennsylvania GOP Sen. Pat Toomey ripped into former president Donald Trump on Friday, calling his behavior in the wake of the 2020 election "completely unacceptable" and saying he should not be the party's nominee in 2024.

During an interview with CNBC, Toomey — who voted to convict Trump for inciting the Capitol insurrection during his Senate impeachment trial — rejected the notion that he is a "moderate Republican."

"Actually, I'm a conservative Republican by any objective measure, by looking at the voting record, by looking at my views compared to that of a traditional conservative Republican," Toomey said. "It is President Trump who departed from Republican orthodoxy and conservative orthodoxy in a variety of ways. I stuck to the conservative views that I've had for a long time. He had a different point of view on matters such as trade and sometimes immigration and other things. So it's funny to me to hear myself characterized differently; I haven't changed."

Asked about where the GOP "goes next," Toomey said: "On our side, we've got this question of where does the traditional Republican conservative coalition stand relative to president Trump."

"President Trump did bring people to our party, especially working-class, blue-collar voters," he added. "That trend was under way, those folks were coming to the Republican Party for years, but he accelerated it dramatically. He did it in some respects by adopting some new policies. In other ways though, it was stylistic. It was the fact that he was aggressively pushing back against people that were seen to be on the other side — the left, many elements of the media. So yeah, I think that the future of our party is to be a party of ideas, and not to be a party about any one individual, and I think we will learn a lot from the next set of primaries."

Asked whether he would be disappointed if Trump is the GOP's 2024 nominee, Toomey responded: "Yes, I think after what happened post-2020 election, I think the president's behavior was completely unacceptable, so I don't think he should be the nominee to lead the party in 2024," adding that there are "many many" other potential candidates who "could do a fantastic job."

Watch below.

'He’s got zero interest in having any heir': Republicans fear Trump will sabotage 2024 GOP primary

Potential 2024 GOP presidential candidates are "racing to the bottom" as they look to win over the MAGA base in the event that former president Donald Trump opts not to run, according to a new report from Vanity Fair.

However, some Republicans fear that if Trump doesn't run, he may try to sabotage the race, because he "looks at every decision through the prism of self-interest."

"What benefits him—financially, emotionally, politically—may actually damage Republican electoral chances," Vanity Fair reported, adding that the former president is fueled as much by a desire for revenge as a desire to win.

"The nightmare scenario for Republicans is that Trump doesn't run and sabotages the Republican nominee to punish Mitch McConnell and other party leaders for not endorsing his big lie," according to the report. "It's happened before. Trump told people he wanted Republicans Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue to lose the 2021 Georgia special election so that Democrats would control the Senate."

"Trump thought he'd be much more influential if McConnell was in the minority," a Trump confidant told the magazine.

Trump denied the report and blamed McConnell for the GOP's Senate defeats in Georiga, but longtime confidants reportedly said he wouldn't be able to tolerate a Republican president other than himself.

"He's got zero interest in having any heir. It's always been about him," one of them said.

If Trump decides to run, it's a "metaphysical impossibility that anybody, even a senator named Jesus H. Christ, could beat" him, according to Michael Caputo, a veteran of Trump's 2016 campaign.

If Trump doesn't run, Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis is widely viewed as the current frontrunner. But DeSantis faces some challenges, including his "abrasive personality" and his "fraught relationship with Trump," the magazine reported.

"Trump f*cking hates DeSantis. He just resents his popularity," a Trump confidant reportedly said.

The situation is unprecedented because the would-be potential candidates have to pretend they aren't running. At the same time, the "knives are out" between them, and if Trump doesn't run, the 2024 primary could be "2016 on steroids," featuring as many as 25-30 candidates — possibly including the likes of Fox News hosts Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson, and Georgia Republican Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene.

But Caputo said he believes a Trump run is "more likely than not" — which appears to be the majority opinion.

"What does Trump have to lose by running?" one prominent GOP strategist said. "His business sucks. He's doing tours with Bill O'Reilly."

Read the full story here.

'He's got zero interest in having any heir': Republicans fear Trump will sabotage 2024 GOP primary

McCarthy’s threat over Jan. 6 records 'meets the elements' of obstruction: legal expert

House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy violated ethics rules — and may have broken the law by obstructing justice — on Tuesday when he threatened telecommunications companies that comply with a Select Committee's request to preserve records relevant to the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection, according to CNN legal analyst Norman Eisen.

McCarthy warned the companies — including Apple, AT&T and Verizon — that if the GOP takes back the House in 2022, "a Republican majority will not forget." He also claimed that complying with the Select Committee's request would somehow violate federal law. But Eisen, who served as special counsel to the House Judiciary Committee during former president Donald Trump's first impeachment trial, said bluntly Wednesday that "there is no law."

"This is the equivalent of the proverbial gangster, walking in to a business and saying, 'Gee, nice telecomm company you have here. It would be a shame if anything happened to it,'" Eisen said of McCarthy's threat. "It's the exact opposite, it's Orwellian. If these telecomm companies fail to comply with the requirement to preserve these records, if they did what Kevin McCarthy wants and refused to turn over the records, that would be a violation of law. So this is absolutely unjustified by law, and it raises serious questions under the House ethics rules and other laws for Kevin McCarthy himself."

Asked whether McCarthy's threat constitutes obstruction of justice, Eisen responded: "It meets the elements of obstruction. It's a threat. It's an attempt to stop them through that threat, from turning over documents. It's self-motivated, it's corrupt, and McCarthy is worried about what may be in those records on him, and on members of his caucus. It's always a challenge when you have legislative activity — and note that he did this on his official Twitter account — you have protection under the Constitution for legislators, the speech and debate clause, there will be a debate about that.

"The House Ethics Rules .. prohibit any behavior that brings discredit on the House," Eisen added. "What could be more discreditable than threatening companies that if they comply with the law, they'll be punished, when McCarthy has the ability to do that? So I think there's a serious ethics issue, and then legal issues potentially that need to be explored as well."

Eisen added there is "no question" that McCarthy had a "personal motivation" in issuing the threat.

"We know that his behavior is going to be called into question, and the committee is going to probe his exchanges with the president," Eisen said. "We know that members of his caucus, like Matt Gaetz, Mo Brooks, Marjorie Taylor Greene, are also in the crosshairs here, and possibly many others. And it's not just Jan. 6. The committee correctly understands that President Trump's pattern of incitement and that of his enablers went back for months in illegitimately attacking an unquestioned electoral result and whipping people into a frenzy. So there could be some very embarrassing revelations. Remember that many members of the Republican caucus, with no basis at all, voted against certifying the election results."

Norman Eisen on New Day

Florida caught using 'statistical sleight of hand' to create 'artificial decline' in COVID deaths: experts

With Florida experiencing a record COVID-19 wave, and Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis under intense scrutiny for his handling of the pandemic, the state's Department of Health recently created an "artificial decline" in the number of deaths attributed to the virus, experts say.

In mid-August, without notifying the media or the general public, the department abruptly changed the way it reports COVID-19 deaths, according to a new report from the Miami Herald. Previously, the department counted deaths by the date they were reported. But now, it is tallying deaths according to the date the person died.

As a result, the state reported on Monday that only 46 people died from COVID-19 during the previous week. Under the old system, the number would have been 262.

"If you chart deaths by Florida's new method, based on date of death, it will generally appear — even during a spike like the present — that deaths are on a recent downslope," the Herald explained. "That's because it takes time for deaths to be evaluated and death certificates processed. When those deaths finally are tallied, they are assigned to the actual data of death — creating a spike where there once existed a downslope and moving the downslope forward in time."

Shivani Patel, a social epidemiologist at Emory University, called the move "extremely problematic" and said it creates an "artificial decline" to make it "look like we are doing better than we are."

"It shouldn't be left to the public, to scientists, national policy makers or the media to guess as to what these numbers are," Patel said. "We know from the beginning that dates matter and that they tell us different things."

Economist Tim Harford, author of "The Data Detective: Ten Easy Rules to Make Sense of Statistics," referred to such unexplained changes in data reporting as "statistical sleight of hand" that may be designed to confuse the layperson.

"When numbers are presented in a flattering light, an expert will generally be able to see through the dazzle quite quickly. That said, I still think the truthful-yet-deceptive framing of numbers is a serious problem," Harford said, adding that it can lead to dangerous public mistrust and cynicism.

"COVID is a matter of life and death and people deserve to have information that is both accurate and understandable without having to decode it," Harford told the Herald.

Read more here.

Trump suggests ‘robber’ Biden has to give him back the White House in latest election conspiracy rant

Former president Donald Trump continued his false claims of election fraud on Monday, suggesting he was "robbed" of a second term and that President Joe Biden should be forced to give him back the White House.

In an interview with right-wing radio host Todd Starnes, Trump claimed he was winning several swings states "by a tremendous number — and all of a sudden, it got wiped out."

"They cheated, and you know when people cheat, I always say, 'If Tiffany gets robbed of its diamonds, when they catch the robber, you have to give the diamonds back,'" Trump said, referring to the iconic jewelry company.

"They have all of this incredible evidence (of election fraud)," he added, falsely. "Does this mean we have to keep the people that cheated for another three-and-a-half years? Because we're not going to have a country left, I can tell you that. We won't have a country left."

Trump made the comments in response to a question from Starnes, who asked, "What can we do to help save this country?"

"The first thing you have to do is look at the results that are going to soon be coming out of Georgia — a very corrupt election, unbelievably corrupt," Trump responded. "Arizona, they led the way. The senators in Arizona deserve a major medal, because they led the way. They found massive fraud."

Watch below.

Trump rigged election rant

Anti-vaxx lawyer for dozens of Capitol rioters is now on a 'ventilator' with COVID-19: report

Attorney John Pierce, who has represented Kenosha, Wisconsin, shooting suspect Kyle Rittenhouse as well as more than a dozen Capitol rioters, reportedly is on a ventilator after contracting COVID-19.

Pierce's illness was first reported Wednesday after it prompted a hearing for accused Capitol rioter Shane Jenkins to be delayed, according to independent journalist Marcy Wheeler and Washington Post reporter Rachel Weiner.

"Pierce is not AT this hearing, he sent the lawyer from his office who is not barred in DC again. Nor did he get his notice of appearance in behind," Wheeler reported.

"Mr. Pierce is in the hospital, we believe, with COVID-19, on a ventilator, non-responsive," the attorney from his office reportedly told a judge.

The judge ultimately continued the hearing until next week, saying, "Send our best wishes to Mr. Pierce and his family."

Last week, the Daily Beast reported that Pierce recently reinvented himself as "a go-to lawyer for conservative causes célèbres."

"But even as his star rises on the right, Pierce has been undermined by a bizarre tweet appearing to threaten federal officials, an employee facing felony charges for allegedly defrauding a grandmother, and his own financial woes," the Daily Beast reported.

Jenkins, the Capitol rioter, was recently denied release after a judge determined he represents a danger to the community and a flight risk. He allegedly destroyed property while trying to break into the Capitol, and threw a flagpole and desk drawer at police.

On his Twitter account, Pierce posted several messages stating his opposition to vaccines and mask mandates:


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