A conservative radio host in Tennessee, who repeatedly spread misinformation about coronavirus and mocked vaccines but changed his tune after falling seriously ill, was still fighting for his life on Saturday, weeks after contracting the virus.
Phil Valentine, who hosts a talk radio show on 99.7 WWTN-FM in Nashville, is hospitalized and is receiving supplemental oxygen while in critical care battling COVID pneumonia, his family said in a statement Friday.
“They say he is still not getting well.. please pray for me,” his wife, Susan, told the station on Saturday morning, according to a tweet. “I am at a breaking point.”
On Saturday afternoon, Julia Campbell Shirley declined to comment on her son-in-law’s condition before hurriedly telling The Daily Beast: “I certainly think people should be vaccinated.”
Valentine had repeatedly downplayed COVID-19 and dismissed guidance from health officials about the seriousness of the virus and the importance of getting vaccinated.
In a blog post in December, days after doses of Pfizer’s COVID vaccine were first authorized for emergency use in the United States, Valentine said he was simply following the logic in deciding not to get vaccinated.
“I’m not an anti-vaxxer,” he wrote. “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 percent. 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.”
After confirming rumors of his diagnosis on July 11, Valentine was initially well enough to report to listeners about his condition.
“I think I’m on the other side of it,” he said of the virus on one occasion, according to WIAT, while describing painful coughing, congestion, and fatigue.
“I’m certainly moving forward, it appears, but not in a straight line,” he added.
Valentine defended his decision not to get vaccinated as he began wrestling with the virus, insisting that he had thought the disease wouldn’t kill him.
Before he was hospitalized, Valentine also announced on air that he was “taking the vitamin D like crazy” and had found a doctor who agreed to prescribe ivermectin. The drug, often used to treat parasites in animals, has been touted in right-wing media circles as a promising COVID treatment but the Food and Drug Administration has cautioned against its use for COVID-19.
But in the days that followed, Valentine’s family shared with the radio station that his battle against the virus had become more dire and he was being hospitalized in critical care.
His brother, Mark Valentine, posted an impassioned message to Facebook on Wednesday, suggesting that watching Phil Valentine who was “fighting for his life,” had persuaded him to get vaccinated when he was previously not inclined to do so.
“Having seen this up close and personal I'd encourage ALL of you to put politics and other concerns aside and get it,” he added, noting that he wouldn’t wish his brother’s condition on his worst enemies.
A day later, during an appearance on WWTN-FM in Nashville, Mark Valentine said his brother was regretful that he wasn’t a more vocal advocate for getting vaccinated.
“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,’” he said.
Mark Valentine insisted that while his brother had not been anti-vax, “he got this one wrong.”
Just last month, Valentine even wrote and performed a parody song of the Beatles’ song “Taxman,” called “Vaxman” in which he appeared to mock vaccines.
“Let me tell you how it will be,” he sang, “and I don’t care if you agree, ‘Cause I’m the Vaxman, yeah I’m the Vaxman. If you don’t like me coming round, be thankful I don’t hold you down.”
Tennessee continues to rank among the lowest in the country for vaccination rates even as cases are rising largely from the highly contagious Delta variant.