- Dennis Prager has some genuinely terrible advice about coronavirus.
- Coronavirus truther cops and docs.
On April 30, as the coronavirus death toll topped 60,000 in the U.S., mega-popular conservative talk radio and online video star Dennis Prager assured his YouTube audience not to worry too much about the disease and keep living their lives.
To comfort his followers, Prager made a bizarre claim about his own commitment to joie de vivre, saying he eats off of utensils in restaurants even after he drops them on the floor. In fact, Prager even rebuffs waiters who offer him a fork that hasn’t touched the floor.
“If I am at a restaurant and my fork or knife falls, I pick it up and use it,” Prager said. “They rush over to give me a new one, like I am flirting with death if I take the fork from the floor. And my view is there’s no reason to come over. The fork fell on the floor. What did it pick up, diphtheria?”
This seemed crazy to me—just get a new fork! But Prager continued with his argument that eating with a fork fresh off a restaurant floor is actually good, and used it as an example of how his audience shouldn’t worry too much about things like the pandemic.
“Am I going to get pancreatic cancer from a fork that fell?” he said. “These things—I’m not troubled by these things.”
As the coronavirus creeps across the country, Prager has had many terrible takes in his weekly fireside chats with his YouTube audience. Countless pro-Trump pundits have bounced back and forth on the virus, taking it seriously when Donald Trump is boasting his administration’s response, then belittling its mortality rate when he isn’t.
But not Prager.
He holds himself out as a sort of ponderous philosopher-king of the right—a cut above your usual Sean Hannity and Mark Levin types. The name of his YouTube channel, “PragerU,” essentially posits that watching videos from Prager and his associates is the equivalent of a university education.
Instead, we get the contaminated restaurant forks. In his weekly fireside chat, Prager has continually pushed the goalposts for what he would consider a serious coronavirus death toll worth a lockdown.
On March 12, for example, Prager clung to the idea that the coronavirus is less lethal than the flu—or even snakebites.
“30 people?” Prager said “I mean, how many people have died this year in the United States from snake bites? I don’t know, I should have looked it up before talking to you. But there is certainly a number.”
Prager also claimed that he faces a “minuscule” cancer risk from smoking cigars, before puffing on one.
Two weeks later, Prager declared that coronavirus is “not a killer,” while conceding that it “kills some.” Prager said he would only accept a lockdown under “staggering” levels, which he defined as “many thousands,” perhaps “30,000” dead. If that didn’t happen, Prager said, “then this has to end very soon.”
By April 16, roughly 33,000 people had died from the coronavirus. Suddenly, Prager escalated the death toll that he considered worth a strident lockdown.
“Even if it were 50,000, if it were 80,000, 100,000 — I mean, obviously there’s a certain point where you have to say the death numbers are so high we have no choice, but those are not the numbers,” Prager said.
The constant readjustments, mindless boasts, and head-scratching health advice would be comical if there weren't so many obvious potentially disastrous ripple effects. Prager’s YouTube channel has more than 2.4 million subscribers. And the fact that that audience sticks with his every word provides one of the clearest illustrations to date that there really is no penalty for being wrong so long as there is constantly a new foe to rail against: in this case, public health advisories.
Prager’s staff didn’t respond to my request for comment on whether he really eats from forks he drops on the restaurant floor.
Every couple of days, there’s a new doctor who briefly becomes a massive star on the right for bucking the epidemiological orthodoxy that we shouldn’t all rush out and die. First it was the doctor who claimed to get incredible results for COVID-19 patients by giving them hydroxychloroquine. After him, there were two Bakersfield, California, urgent-care entrepreneurs who briefly became fixtures on the Fox primetime shows by peddling some comically flawed conclusions about the virus’ prevalence.
Then we got the ultimate coronavirus truther doc: Dr. Judy Mikovits, the doctor who rebounded from an embarrassing career setback to launch a second career among anti-vaccine activists. Last week, Mikovits starred in Plandemic, the Facebook documentary that has almost certainly convinced someone you know that Dr. Anthony Fauci is, vaguely, a big-time villain, and that masks somehow “activate” that virus.
Mikovits has been joined in the viral docs’ hall of fame by Dr. Jeffrey Barke, a pro-Trump “concierge” doctor who appeared at another California rally questioning whether masks actually work.
But the age of viral coronavirus-skeptic doctors may be over soon, because there’s a cool new essential worker with terrible claims about the pandemic: viral coronavirus truther cops. On May 6, Seattle port police officer Greg Anderson recorded himself claiming that police officers don’t have the authority to enforce stay-at-home orders.
Anderson was quickly suspended from his job, but received $45,000 in GoFundMe donations from his new fans.
Naturally, he’s set off a new trend of police officers seeking viral fame. On Friday, YouTube channels that had promoted Anderson’s video were promoting another cop with another dashboard video. The new coronavirus truther cop goes further than Anderson and encourages everyone in his neighborhood to watch Plandemic instead of abiding by social distancing. But Anderson’s fans were suspicious—how did they know this new guy wasn’t just in it for the GoFundMe donations?