After Covid Diagnosis, a Conservative Radio Host Sends a New Message

NASHVILLE – Mark Valentine knows that his brother Phil Valentine, a prominent Conservative radio host who poked fun at the need for a vaccination, had a huge impact on how his listeners view the pandemic and their own reaction to it.

“The fact is, a lot of people didn’t get the vaccine because he didn’t,” said Mark Valentine.

But after Phil Valentine contracted Covid-19 and was hospitalized in critical condition and made a statement advising others to get the vaccine, the news has divided his fans and critics – who continue to be about arguing the guilt of Mr. Valentine in his own illness and his influence on listeners who, like him, turned down the possibility of vaccination.

Phil Valentine, who once wrote that he would not get the vaccine because his chance of dying from the virus was “far less than one percent”, is now being hospitalized, on a ventilator at night and on an oxygen mask during that time connected day so that he can breathe.

Last month, Mr. Valentine performed a parody of the Beatles song “Taxman” called “Vaxman” that appeared to mock vaccines. But then, unimpressed, he announced his own diagnosis on July 11, saying he plans to return to his show in a day or two.

“Unfortunately for the haters out there, it looks like I’ll make it,” he wrote.

But less than two weeks later, his radio station 99.7 WTN announced that he had been hospitalized. According to an update from Sunday afternoon, it is in critical condition.

“Phil wants his audience to know that while he has never been an ‘anti-vaxer’ he regrets not being an outspoken ‘vaccine advocate’ and looks forward to being more forceful in taking that position once he does it’s “back on the air that we all hope will be soon,” said the broadcaster.

Since the news of his diagnosis broke out, his family and website have received hundreds of messages on social media from fans sharing their support, as well as critics, some of whom said he deserved to get sick.

The response is a microcosm of the ongoing debate over the division among Americans as vaccination rates decline. Currently, 56.5 percent of people in the United States have received at least one dose and 48.9 percent are fully vaccinated, according to the New York Times database.

Joe Bonsall, a longtime friend of Mr. Valentine’s, said he spent Sunday morning blocking hateful commentators on Twitter after his band, the Oak Ridge Boys, expressed their support on Twitter using the hashtag #PrayforPhil .

“There are people who say Phil deserves this,” said Mr. Bonsall. “But nobody deserves that.”

Mr Bonsall, who is conservative, is frustrated that the vaccine has become a “political issue” for many people rather than a public health concern. He said he got the vaccine as soon as he could get his hands on it because his band was on tour. But his wife, along with other family members, refuses to get vaccinated until they get full approval (the vaccines now have emergency approval) from the Food and Drug Administration.

“It’s going to harm people,” Bonsall said of people’s refusal to get vaccinated. “It hurt Phil too.”

But others say that it is not enough for Mr. Valentine, who also gained a following as a climate change denier, to advise listeners to do the recording now.


July 26, 2021, 2:04 p.m. ET

“This is a person in a position of authority,” commented Phil Stokes on Mark Valentine’s social media posts updating his brother’s status, who lives in Hamburg, NY. “On the one hand, he has the authority to make decisions about his own health – but he has also put himself and his audience at risk.”

Mr. Stokes said he appreciated Mr. Valentine’s family’s comments on his move to encourage everyone to get vaccinated.

“Hopefully we don’t need more high-profile people to get this sick,” said Stokes.

Interest in Mr. Valentine comes as the number of cases has quadrupled in the last month and concerns about vaccination rates and mask wear have re-emerged.

Hospital stays and death rates have also increased, along with the advent of the delta variant, which is more contagious and can lead to more severe cases.

Understand the state of vaccine mandates in the United States

On CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Mayor Quinton Lucas of Kansas City, Missouri, expressed fears among officials about the spread of the virus and many people’s refusal to be vaccinated on Sunday.

“We must continue to defend ourselves against negative messages,” he said.

Mr. Valentine’s situation became a focus for many people. But that didn’t mean that even devoted listeners would follow his advice.

“This is Phil Valentine’s ordeal – this is his cross, so to speak,” said a man who took just his first name Daniel and said he lived in Lascassas, Tennessee, 40 miles south of Nashville.

“And that the family came out – ‘Just go get the tape,’ he said – well, no, I mean, I’m not that easy to be influenced by a radio talk show host.”

He said he still didn’t see the need to get vaccinated.

“I know Covid is real; I know people die from things like that, ”he said. “But I just know that in my current situation I didn’t have the urge to either travel where they need it or just go willingly and get it.”

Mr. Valentine is one of 514 Covid-19 patients currently hospitalized in Tennessee, up 78 percent in the past two weeks, according to a New York Times database. In Davidson County, where Nashville is located, 48 percent of residents are fully vaccinated.

Although the vaccinated population in Nashville is higher than the rest of the state, it is still not good enough, according to Alex Jahangir, a professor at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and head of the Covid-19 Task Force in Nashville.

He hoped that Mr Valentine’s reported support for the vaccine could have an impact on others.

“The people I want to include have probably already been drafted,” said Dr. Jahangir. “The people we want are the ones who listen to people like Mr. Valentine.”

According to Mark Valentine, his brother’s diagnosis has already had an effect: almost a dozen people in the audience turned to him and said they had the vaccine, he said. He said he also got himself vaccinated the day his brother was hospitalized.

“The Lord works in a mysterious way,” said Mark Valentine. “Maybe this happened so that Phil could talk to people and make sure that more people don’t die.”

Melina Delkic contributed to the reporting

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