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A local Republican Party official in South Carolina died of COVID-19 Thursday, after spending nearly three weeks in the ICU during which he posted misinformation about vaccines and called coronavirus “a deadly bio-weapon.”
Both 64-year-old Pressley Stutts and his wife were rushed to the hospital with COVID-19 complications on August 1, according to the Greenville News. His wife was released earlier this month, but Stutts was moved to the intensive care unit.
On August 8, Stutts shared a picture of a nurse protesting against vaccine mandates and added: “Yes! Give a SHOUT OUT to those on the front lines. They place their lives in danger Every. Single. Day.”
“Every day in ICU, they give me a cognitive test asking me various questions as to date, where am I, etc,” Stutts posted on August 4, along with a picture of himself and Trump. “They always ask who the President is and I keep telling them the President is STILL Donald J. Trump! Not going to let them fool me with that poser named Joe. Nosirree!”
When he was hospitalized, Stutts said COVID-19 “created double pneumonia in my lungs.” He falsely described the disease as “a deadly bio-weapon perpetrated upon the people of the world by enemies foreign, and perhaps domestic,” but stressed that he was against vaccine and mask mandates as “an ardent defender of Freedom and Liberty.”
Even after he was moved to the ICU, he continued to insist that he was against vaccine and mask mandates and shared anti-vaccine content on his Facebook. Stutts posted a quote attributed to British science fiction writer Ian Watson about what’s “in your best interest” which has spread throughout anti-vaxxer social media as a rallying cry against COVID-related mandates.
In his final post, on August 13, Stutts said he was “making a decision to go on a ventilator.” Lin Wood, the QAnon-promoting pro-Trump lawyer whom Stutts backed in his bid to become chair of the South Carolina Republican Party, claimed in a Telegram post two days later that the hospital was effectively killing Stutts and advised his followers to “avoid hospitals at all costs,” calling them “medical prisons.”
Like much of the South, South Carolina is experiencing a wave of COVID-19 approaching a level not seen since last winter’s peak, largely as a result of the highly contagious Delta variant. Just 42 percent of South Carolina residents are fully vaccinated; the state is recording an average of more than 3,500 cases a day and has more than 1,600 people currently hospitalized.
Stutts had protested against masking and vaccine requirements when Vice President Kamala Harris visited the state in June. "People should be free to get the vaccines they want. Free not to get it,” Stutts told the Greenville News at the time. “But what's happening now is that there's a discrimination starting to take place.”
He was elected as Greenville County’s executive committeeman on July 22, just ten days before he was admitted to the hospital.
“I really don’t have words to say about the imprint that [Stutts] left on the political landscape in South Carolina," Don Harvell, Stutts’ counterpart in the Anderson County GOP, told the Greenville News Thursday. “He had the kind of personality that enabled him to get done what others couldn’t do.”