A Conservative Radio Host Mocked the Vaccine. Now He’s Hospitalized With COVID.

Phil Valentine’s family says he regrets his position and pleaded with listeners to get vaccinated.

Phil Valentine hosting his radio show in 2020.PhilValentine Show/YouTube

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The family of conservative radio host Phil Valentine, who is now hospitalized in a Tennessee critical care unit with COVID-19, issued a statement on his behalf Friday, expressing his regret over the vaccine skepticism that he has shared with his listeners over many months.

They ended their statement with an all-caps plea to Valentine’s listeners: “PLEASE GO GET VACCINATED!”

Valentine is the most recent in a string of conservative media personalities to embrace the COVID vaccine after months of public skepticism. Last week, Fox News host Sean Hannity urged his viewers to take COVID seriously and said that it “absolutely makes sense for many Americans to get vaccinated. I believe in science. I believe in the science of vaccination.” Several other Fox hosts made similar statements over the course of the week. 

Valentine, who is 61-years-old, has hosted his popular conservative talk radio show on a Nashville radio station for the last 25 years. About 39 percent of Tennesseans have received a COVID vaccine, yet Valentine has in recent months repeatedly promoted vaccine hesitancy both on his show and on his blog. On the air, Valentine performed “Vaxman”—a parody of the Beatles song “Taxman” that was reconfigured to mock the Covid vaccines: “Yeah, I’m the Vaxman,” the chorus goes. “If you don’t like me coming round, be thankful I don’t hold you down.”

In a December 2020 blog post, Valentine wrote that he was not an anti-vaxxer but was instead “using common sense” in opting not to get vaccinated. He added:

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 one 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. That evokes shrieks of horror from many, but it’s true. 

CNN reported that this spring that Valentine compared hospital workers asked to indicate their COVID vaccine status on their ID badges to Jews who were forced to identify themselves by wearing yellow stars in Nazi Germany. 

In their Friday statement, Valentine’s family said that he “regrets not being more vehemently ‘Pro-Vaccine’, and looks forward to being able to more vigorously advocate that position as soon as he is back on the air, which we all hope will be soon.”

They added that Valentine has COVIDpneumonia, is breathing with assistance, but is not on a ventilator. 

Tennessee is among a number of Southern states where vaccine misinformation has led to low rates of vaccination and the rapid recent spread of the highly infectious Delta variant. Health officials in Tennessee have said that the vast majority of COVID deaths in the state are among the unvaccinated.

Earlier this month, the Tennessee government fired the state’s top vaccination official Dr. Michelle Fiscus. Though the reasons for her termination were not made clear, Fiscus said it was likely because of her efforts to vaccinate young people ages 12 to 15 after the CDC declared the COVID vaccine safe for this age group. Republican lawmakers in the state had publicly criticized Fiscus’ actions during legislative hearings last month. 

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is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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