A QAnon and anti-vaccine podcaster has died from complications due to COVID-19 after contracting the virus at a conspiracy theory conference that turned into a superspreader event, and where fellow attendees baselessly blamed their illness on an anthrax attack.
Doug Kuzma, 61, from Newport News, Virginia, died on January 3 after being hospitalized 10 days earlier. Kuzma broadcasted on the FROG News podcasting network, which stands for “Fully Rely On God.” Kuzma and his FROG fellow hosts pushed an array of conspiracy theories ranging from QAnon to COVID denial and election fraud lies.
Kuzma attended the ReAwaken America conference in Dallas on the weekend of Dec. 11, posting a picture of his media pass on his Facebook page. Other images Kuzma posted from the conference show large crowds in confined spaces without any social distancing or masks.
“Podcaster room overrun with people. Chaos,” Kuzma commented under one picture.
The conspiracy-laden event, organized by Tulsa businessman Clay Clark, was headlined by the likes of disgraced former national security adviser Michael Flynn, conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, and former President Donald Trump's son Eric.
After the event, several unvaccinated conspiracy theorists and election fraud promoters claimed baselessly that they’d been targeted by a biological weapon such as anthrax.
Kuzma reported that he was feeling ill, but claimed it was just his chronic bronchitis flaring up again. On December 15 he posted on Facebook that he had a fever and said it was time to call the doctor.
Someone commented that he should get a COVID test anyway, but Kuzma responded: “No way.” When the commenter said it was better to be “safe than sorry,” Kuzma once again lashed out, writing: “You must have lost your mind, so they can kill me, and try and give me the jab. I’ll die at the house before I go to the hospital.”
However, after suffering from a fever for five days straight, Kuzma was forced to admit that he had likely contracted COVID.
He was reportedly found unconscious at his house on Christmas Eve and rushed to the hospital. Pro-Trump lawyer Lin Wood posted on Telegram that Kuzma was brought to the Bon Secours Mary Immaculate Hospital ICU in Newport News and was not responding to treatment. Kuzma was sedated and placed on a ventilator, according to a post by his podcast network.
According to a fellow member of FROG News, the final message Kuzma sent was a photo of himself with a “refill of ivermectin.” The drug has not been approved for use in treating COVID-19. Ivermectin, which is best known as a horse dewormer, is prescribed to humans as an antiparasitic drug, but a study that claimed it was an effective treatment for COVID-19 was withdrawn due to plagiarism and “serious problems with their raw data.”
According to the same friend of Kuzma, who posted on Telegram under the name “Super Foods,” the podcaster’s daughter had stopped sharing updates about his condition because “she was against his Truther movement.”
Kuzma and Frog News pushed anti-vax conspiracies since the beginning of the pandemic, hosting numerous so-called experts who have shared wildly conspiratorial and outright false claims about the virus and the vaccines.
Frog News is a heavy promoter of the multilevel marketing (MLM) healthcare company Lifewave, which sells unproven wearable patches that promise to “activate our stem cells and reset them to a younger, healthier state.”
Kuzma also showed support for the QAnon cult, with posters seen in the background of his studio featuring well-known QAnon phrases like “the great awakening” and “WWG1WGA.”
Additionally, Kuzma appeared on podcasts with Mike Penny, another member of the Frog News network. Penny played a central role in helping promote the QAnon offshoot cult that traveled to Dallas in November under the belief that former President John F. Kennedy and his son were about to reappear.
Penny has repeatedly hosted the cult’s leader, Michael Protzman, on his podcasts. The families of members have told VICE News they believe their loved ones are being drugged and forced to hand over large sums of money to Protzman.
Kuzma is just the latest in a long line of anti-vaxxer podcasters, radio hosts, and activists who have died after contracting the virus.
These include Robert David Steele, an early QAnon promoter-turned-election truther, Veronica Wolski, an anti-vaxxer and QAnon believer whose followers harassed hospital staff to prescribe ivermectin, and Hai Shoulian, one of Israel’s most prominent anti-vaxxers, whose followers believe he was killed by the Israeli government to prevent him from exposing “myths” about the pandemic.
Want the best of VICE News straight to your inbox? Sign up here.