I’m not saying right-wing radio host Dennis Prager’s bizarre approach to COVID-19 is the weirdest anti-vax moment of the pandemic, although I’m guessing it’s probably in the top 10.
What I am saying, with all certainty, is that it has to be the weirdest involving the presumed frontrunner in the Colorado GOP race to choose a candidate to run against Gov. Jared Polis next year.
Here’s the theory: Prager — who fashions himself as a leader of the intellectual, pro-Trump right while boasting a YouTube audience said to be in the millions — has intentionally been flirting with the virus because, he has said, getting COVID is the best way to be immunized against, uh, getting COVID. Much better, he says, than getting vaccinated because getting the shot may be dangerous while getting COVID is a breeze, except, I guess, for the 700,000-plus Americans who have died from it and all the many tens of thousands burdened with what they’re calling long COVID.
I wouldn’t normally write about Prager’s ravings, life being too short even for those of us who have been fully vaccinated and also boostered. But it turns out that Prager had come to Colorado on Oct. 10 in hopes of being infected with COVID while also boosting Heidi Ganahl’s campaign.
Prager was in Colorado Springs for an hour-long conversation — they called it “The Future of America” — with Ganahl, whose frontrunner status is mostly based on the fact that she was the last Republican to have won statewide office in Colorado. OK, it was for an at-large seat on the CU Board of Regents, which isn’t exactly a high-profile race, but it’s something.
Three days after the Ganahl-Prager event, Prager did in fact come down with the virus, which he happily announced on his radio show Monday. He’d been trying to get the virus for months, and I guess he hit Colorado at the right time, since our COVID numbers are sadly on the rise.
And so a week after the Ganahl-Prager event, Ganahl’s campaign was forced, not so happily, to announce it was contacting the 100 people who had attended, suggesting they get tested for COVID. Ganahl, who says she is fully vaccinated, knows full well that COVID kills, just as it killed Bob Enyart, the Denver radio talk show host, who was, according to one count, the fifth conservative anti-vaccine radio host to die from the virus.
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Apparently the campaign knew nothing about Prager’s status until he announced it on his radio show. I guess he hadn’t bothered to let Ganahl know. He certainly hadn’t told her he was actively trying to get COVID. It’s one more issue for Ganahl, whose first quarterly fundraising total has come in at a mere $137,000. She had only recently announced her run, but that’s still not a good opening number, particularly once you note that $50,000 of that total was a loan from the candidate herself. And then there’s the fact that she’d be running against someone with unlimited campaign funds.
And why was Prager so happy?
Here’s what he told his radio listeners: “It is infinitely preferable to have natural immunity than vaccine immunity and that is what I have hoped for the entire time. Hence… I have engaged with strangers, constantly hugging them, taking photos with them knowing that I was making myself very susceptible to getting COVID… [It is] what I wanted, in the hope I would achieve natural immunity and be taken care of by therapeutics. That is exactly what has happened.”
Speaking from home, where he is in quarantine after missing three radio shows last week because of effects of the virus, Prager said he has taken Regeneron’s monoclonal antibody treatment and that he has enlisted the so-called “Zelenko Protocol,” which is an unproven cocktail of drugs favored in anti-vax circles. And, of course, Prager is taking ivermectin because he’s more comfortable with unproven deworming medicine than with a vaccine that actually works.
When Colin Powell, who had been fully vaccinated, died from COVID the other day, anti-vaxxers took that as a sure sign that the vaccines don’t work. In fact, Powell, 84, was severely immunocompromised, which greatly heightens the risk of death. Powell had gotten his shots and had scheduled a booster when he was infected. The lesson of Powell’s death, as many have noted, is that vulnerable people are made that much more vulnerable in a society where so many tens of millions are unvaccinated.
Prager’s virus-seeking ploy certainly isn’t his only COVID controversy. He said early on that the virus “wasn’t a killer.” He later called a global lockdown the “greatest mistake in the history of humanity.” And there’s also his claim, which you can believe or not, that he would eat from dirty silverware — say, he had dropped a fork at a restaurant — in hopes of proving, uh, something. It’s not clear what he was proving or, for that matter, if he had employed the five-second rule.
And then there’s the little matter of natural immunity, which is a thing, of course. But the CDC recommends getting vaccinated even after coming down with COVID, noting a study that shows that you’re twice as likely to be reinfected if you aren’t vaccinated. (For those who have never gotten vaccinated, the numbers are far worse. If you’re unvaccinated, you’re six times more likely to be infected and 11 times more likely to die if you contract the virus than if you’re vaccinated.”
Presumably, all that was easy enough to check before inviting Prager to a campaign event. On Friday, as Prager was fighting the chills, Colorado’s state epidemiologist, Dr. Rachel Herlihy, revealed that Colorado now has the 14th highest COVID rate in the country. As recently as Oct. 1, it was 41st.
Now Polis, as you know, is a strong vaccine advocate. And as you probably also know, he is mandate-hesitant and remains so even with hospitalizations now at their highest point this calendar year.
When asked at a news conference Monday what more he might possibly do in the face of rising cases, he said, “Several thousand Coloradans every day make the choice to get vaccinated. We are seeing a steady improvement. At some level, this becomes a matter of personal responsibility.”
Yes, but at some level, those not personally responsible do bear some of the responsibility for the continuing spread of the virus and, yes, for deaths, like that of Colin Powell, that might have been avoided.
Mike Littwin has been a columnist for too many years to count. He has covered Dr. J, four presidential inaugurations, six national conventions and countless brain-numbing speeches in the New Hampshire and Iowa snow.
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