COVID-19 is making some room on the AM dial as six conspiracy-spreading radio hosts die in six weeks

COVID-19 is making some room on the AM dial as six conspiracy-spreading radio hosts die in six weeks

In 1987, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ended the Fairness Doctrine at the direction of Ronald Reagan. Within days, the five-times fired Rush Limbaugh was handed a plum new job and a new assignment: Show that unrestrained racism, misogyny, and plain old hate was a money-maker. The success of that experiment turned Limbaugh into a conservative icon for such insights in calling 12-year-old Chelsea Clinton a dog, an ongoing segment in which he played “I’ll never love this way again” while covering deaths from HIV, and complaining that the genocide of Native Americans didn’t go far enough.

With the success of that experiment in rotting out America’s core for cash, Limbaugh-style commentators began popping up everywhere. Within a decade, it was impossible to turn on the AM dial across much of America without being treated to some attack on women, Latinos, the LGBTQ community, and Black people. Especial Black people. If there was ever a chance that racism really was dying in America, conservative radio hosts across the nation found those embers and blew, blew, blew them into right red flames of hate.

For decades now, the AM radio hosts of America have been spreading, keeping the flames of hate stoked high, and metastasizing as they one-upped each other in showing that there was literally nothing they couldn’t get away with. That included spreading conspiracy theories like QAnon. And of course, it included lies about COVID-19, spreading fear of vaccines, promoting false “cures” from hydroxychloroquine to bleach, and laughing at everyone calling for wearing masks or limiting gatherings.

These are the guys who have been out there claiming COVID-19 is a hoax, that reports of deaths are exaggerated, that veterinary medications are safe, and that President Joe Biden is a tyrant for insisting on vaccination. Except none of these six guys will be doing that again. Because all six of them are dead.

One.

As The Denver Post reports, Bob Enyart was the cohost of the Colorado-based “Real Science Radio Show,” where he urged his listeners to boycott the COVID-19 vaccines after claiming that they were made from the tissue of aborted fetuses. A self-described “right-wing religious fanatic,” Enyart also called for the death penalty for women who sought an abortion, and—a recurring theme—used his show to mock AIDS victims by name. Oh, and he’s also being sued by NPR for using the name “Real Science Friday.”

Back in October 2020, Enyart filed a lawsuit against limits on social gatherings and won in court on claims that it violated First Amendment protections of religion. Thanks to this ruling, Colorado is still home to unlimited, mask-free church services that are still generating superspreader events that send ripples of death across communities. 

On both his radio show and his web site, Enyart continually attacked the idea that anyone was actually dying from COVID-19. He went after Johns Hopkins researchers, Dr. Anthony Fauci, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which Enyart called “the Seedy See.” He also heavily pushed the idea that COVID-19—which was not killing people and wasn’t a genuine threat—was created as a biological weapon by China.

But Enyart was probably best known for how he used to read the names of AIDS victims on the air, punctuating each one by a play of the Queen song “Another One Bites the Dust,” an act he featured both on radio and on a cable TV show. 

If that seems like peak evil—and possibly peak karma—consider this: Enyart may have claimed that he was demanding a boycott of all COVID-19 vaccines out of lies about fetal cells being used in their development, but he more than once let slip his genuine intentions. As KUSA reports, Enyart made it clear he was pushing against vaccines to “further increase social tension.” 

Two. 

As my colleague Aysha Qamar covered, broadcaster Marc Bernier, who called himself “Mr. Anti-vax,” died in Daytona, Florida, on Aug. 30. Following his death, spokespeople from Bernier’s station claimed that his views on the vaccine “were not political,” but were based on “concerns about how it would affect people close to him.” Those apolitical views must be what caused Bernier to make multiple statements in which he compared authorizing the vaccines to Nazi medical experiments. And as for how the vaccine would impact those close to him … it’s safe to say that not taking the vaccine did exactly that. 

In the wake of his death, Bernier is being remembered as one of the “fairest” of the conservative broadcasters, who showed all sides of an issue. Like during the runup to the election, when Bernier did his broadcast live from a maskless rally headlined by Donald Trump Jr., who echoed every false claim that Rudy Giuliani, Trump Jr., etc. had made about Hunter Biden, the “laptop,” and Ukraine, including claiming that Hunter was “accepting money from foreign governments and giving ‘the big guy’ a 10% cut.” 

Three.

A week before Bernier, WTVF reported that Nashville talker Phil Valentine had died from COVID-19. Valentine went into the hospital after spending months downplaying the risk of COVID-19 and exaggerating the risks of vaccination. “I have a very low risk of A) Getting COVID and B) dying of it if I do,” Valentine wrote on Twitter. “Why would I risk getting a heart attack or paralysis by getting the vaccine?” In July, Valentine may have hit peak anti-vaxxer when he recorded a parody song titled “Vax Man,” in which he claimed that anti-vaxxer information was being suppressed and that the vaccine was being forced on people to “take their rights.”

Once hospitalized, Valentine reportedly regretted his vaccine skepticism, with his family saying: “He regrets not being more adamant about getting the vaccine.” Sen. Marsha Blackburn lauded Valentine as “a visionary for the conservative movement” who “made an enormous impact on the lives of many Tennesseans.” Considering that Tennessee still has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the nation, and is now at the very top of the charts in terms of cases of COVID-19 by population … that could be true.

Four.

Days before Valentine, The Charlotte Observer recorded the death of “Christian” radio broadcaster Jimmy DeYoung. DeYoung, whose “Prophecy Today” program revolved around well-established themes that these are the “End Times,” included extensive claims that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and CDC were lying about the COVID-19 vaccine, and that it was actually a form of “government control of the people.”

This included a conspiracy that the “invisible virus” was actually created as an excuse for world governments to destroy families and religions with the vaccine created to control the population even though “99.96% of people who get the virus survive.” The program also included speculations that the vaccine might represent “the mark of the beast”—along with “prophetic prospective” on COVID-19 and the vaccines. He also spread scorn against ministers who spread fear about the vaccines; he spread a false report about the vaccine intended to be used by pastors to frighten their congregations.

Five. 

Shortly before DeYoung, the obit for Oklahoma-based radio host Tod Tucker revealed that he died. Of something. Of pneumonia. Okay, of pneumonia related to COVID-19, which isn’t the same as dying of COVID-19. Not at all. According to Vanity Fair, Tucker spent the months leading up to his own demise mocking the vaccine and everyone who took it. “Please stop bragging that you got your COVID vaccine,” Tucker wrote on Facebook. “What do you want us to say? ‘Congratulations lab rat?!’”

In one of those bits of synchronicity, on some stations Tucker’s show had just been slotted in to replace the suddenly off-the-air Dick Ferrell show. Speaking of which …

Six. 

As Qamar reported on Aug. 9, the man who was sometimes called “the other Limbaugh,” conservative talker Dick Ferrell, died after months of attacking vaccines, masks, and social distancing. In addition to calling masks both “face diapers” and a “face panty,” Farrell ran a string of conspiracy theories in which he downplayed the threat from COVID-19 and claimed that Democrats were using the pandemic to control the country. That included continuing claims that the death toll from COVID-19 was being highly exaggerated, and that Democrats were—somehow, even under Trump—inflating these numbers to win the election.

 In June, Farrel was calling pro-vaccination people “power trip lib loons” and urged people not to get vaccinated, but by August the radio host’s attitude had changed; he pleaded with his friends to get vaccinated before it was too late.

This would also be the same guy who called Fauci a “power tripping lying freak” while telling his supporters that he had the real news about the “scam demic.”

If any of these six had survived long enough to make it back to the air, might they have used their platforms to promote vaccination? Probably not. Will their deaths make any difference? Probably not. 

After all, just as already happened in the case of many of these shows, their slots will simply be replaced with the next racist, sexist, anti-vaxxer hungry to gain an audience through generating outrage. And there’s the little factor that most of these men didn’t just preach against the vaccine, but constantly informed their audience that the government was attributing deaths to COVID-19 that really came from other causes. Believing that their deaths also came from something else, or that the government simply locked them up in a Federal Emergency Management Agency camp somewhere, seems like an (il)logical next step.

But there is one little footnote: that FCC rule on the Fairness Doctrine? The one that was taken away under Regan, creating space for all these guys to lie and rage across the airwaves for profit? That rule could be put right back again

From Daily Kos at Read More. This article is republished from DailyKos under an open content license. Read the original article at DailyKos.

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