Rock guitarist Ted Nugent called the Covid pandemic a “dirty lying scam” as recently as two weeks ago. So social media reacted with predictable and justified schadenfreude when he announced Monday on a Facebook live video that he had tested positive for Covid after a severe illness. “I thought I was dying. I literally could hardly crawl out of bed the last few days,” he said. “Maybe it’s not even Covid. I’m thinking it’s just Cat Scratch Fever. Karma has a sense of humor,” actor George Takei responded on Twitter, speaking for many.
Nugent has a long history of making racist and antisemitic statements and of generally being horrible. That hasn’t changed. In the video in which he says he has Covid he uses anti-Asian slurs and reiterates that he won’t get the Covid vaccine because “nobody knows what’s in it” (Fact check: health officials and experts do in fact know what’s in the Covid vaccines, which is why they have been approved). Even with these major caveats, though, Nugent’s decision to acknowledge that he was sick with Covid is one of the few decent things he’s done in the last several decades.
Covid denialism has become deeply embedded on the right, where conspiratorial thinking and vaunting individualism have metastasized into a visceral, dangerous rejection of public health measures. Early in the pandemic, 60 percent of Democrats said the virus was a major threat to health, while only about a third of Republicans did. Republicans have also been resistant to wearing masks, with only 53 percent saying they wore masks in stores all or most of the time compared to 76 percent of Democrats. And now, of course, Republicans are much more likely to refuse vaccines. In March polls, more than 40 percent of Republican men said they would not get the vaccine.