Clay Travis
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Clay Travis exploits Damar Hamlin’s heart attack to justify a COVID misinformation campaign

Founder and CEO of the Rupert Murdoch-owned sports website Outkick Clay Travis is a frequent Fox guest once known for stunts like eating only pudding to protest the lack of NFL games shown in the Virgin Islands. Last week he used his habit of over-the-top grandstanding to push COVID-19 misinformation by blaming the vaccine for Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin’s on-field collapse on January 2.

Hamlin’s sudden heart attack emboldened Travis and other right-wing figures to baselessly spread anti-vaccine conspiracy theories under the guise of concern. They allege that a supposed increase of cardiovascular incidents involving athletes is related to the vaccine. The conspiracy theory, which can be traced back to far-right Austrian populist party websites, holds no scientific weight: There is no evidence correlating COVID-19 vaccination to reported incidents of athletes collapsing. Instead, cardiologists have suggested that Hamlin likely experienced a condition called commotio cordis, in which an impact to the chest during a specific time in the heartbeat cycle can cause cardiac arrest.

Despite the lack of evidence, and after reports indicated that Hamlin’s situation was growing less critical, Travis spent the next week repeating the debunked conspiracy theory. He focused his outrage — spread on Twitter, Outkick The Show, and The Clay Travis and Buck Sexton Show — on how he was not “allowed” to claim vaccines were connected to the incidents involving Hamlin or Air Force Academy football player Hunter Brown, while heavily implying that they were.

  • Travis pushed conspiracy theory that there has been an increase in cardiovascular incidents of athletes post-COVID vaccination

    • Travis demanded, “In the world of sports, we need deep dive investigations into whether the COVID shot is leading to more deaths of young, otherwise healthy people” before conceding his evidence is only “anecdotal.” Travis said a “risk-reward analysis” of taking the COVID-19 vaccine “would suggest that no one should get the COVID shot” because it “appears to be the case” that the COVID vaccine does not provide any protection. [Outkick, Outkick the Show with Clay Travis, 1/11/23]
    • Travis hosted COVID-19 conspiracy theorist Alex Berenson to share his opinion on Hamlin’s collapse: “There are a lot of young people who are suddenly having heart issues,” said Travis. “We’ve never seen somebody collapse like Damar Hamlin did on Monday Night Football a little over a week ago. Do you think we should be investigating and asking whether the COVID shot could have been involved?” [Premiere Radio Networks, The Clay Travis and Buck Sexton Show, 1/10/23]
    • In a Twitter thread, Travis pushed the conspiracy theory that there has been an increase in athletes collapsing after COVID-19 vaccination: “It’s becoming increasingly clear we have a significant number of young, healthy athletes dying suddenly at abnormal rates. When will Dr. Fauci allow us to start asking questions? When will all the sports media who said it wasn’t safe to play sports because of covid ask questions?” [Twitter, 1/10/23]
    • Travis added that “millions of young, healthy kids” were “forced” into vaccination. “I’m not claiming to have all the answers, but at some point you have to stop pretending that all of these deaths are normal. We forced tens of millions of young, healthy kids to take experimental covid shots & now we have an awful lot of sudden deaths all over the country.” [Twitter, 1/10/23]
    • Travis concluded the thread by saying, “We need a serious deep dive data analysis into young people’s rates of heart-related issues in the past compared to now and we need it immediately.” [Twitter, 1/10/23
    • Travis noted that “we are continuing to see athletes … collapsing, it seems, at rates that, frankly, I don’t remember seeing before.” Travis then related the tragic death of Air Force Academy football player Hunter Brown to the conspiracy theory, and stated, “I’ve been covering sports for a long time, and I just do not remember seeing stories about otherwise healthy athletes collapsing like we are seeing right now.” (Brown’s sister has since tweeted that his death “wasn’t due to a ‘jab.’”) [Premiere Radio Networks, The Clay Travis and Buck Sexton Show, 1/11/23]
    • Travis tweeted an article from Outkick on the death of an 18-year-old Las Vegas high school student. “18 year old Las Vegas high school student goes to PE and dies of an apparent heart attack immediately after PE at his high school.” [Twitter, 1/14/23]
  • Travis whined about those dismissing suggested links between Hamlin’s heart attack and the COVID-19 vaccine

    • Travis complained, “You can't even mention whether the heart-related condition might be in any way connected to the COVID shot.” He continued, “Was there any connection at all to the COVID shot? Did he even get the COVID shot? Myocarditis has been shown to be more likely in young athletes. Was that in any way involved in this? All of that’s important.” [Outkick, Outkick the Show with Clay Travis, 1/5/23
    • Travis deemed it acceptable to begin questioning the COVID-19 vaccine “now that we know that Damar Hamlin is gonna be OK.” He asked, “Was – this is a fair question now – was the COVID shot in any way involved? We know that the COVID shot has created myocarditis in some individuals. Did Damar Hamlin get the COVID shot? Was it involved in any way in his issue on the football field? All of those, very valid questions.” [Outkick, Outkick the Show with Clay Travis, 1/6/23]
    • Travis posted a Twitter thread criticizing former National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Dr. Anthony Fauci for dismissing conspiracy theories linking Hamlin’s collapse to the COVID-19 vaccine: “Dr. Fauci says it’s unacceptable to ask whether Damar Hamlin’s injury might be connected in any way to the covid shot. I have several thoughts on this. First, many young, healthy people are having heart issues. That’s happening.” [Twitter, 1/8/23]
    • Travis claimed it was “chilling that you weren’t allowed” to suggest the COVID-19 shot was responsible for Hamlin’s heart attack because “we are seeing a lot of heart-related issues in young, healthy people.” Travis deemed dismissal of the conspiracy theory “anti-science.” [Premiere Radio Networks, The Clay Travis and Buck Sexton Show, 1/9/23]
  • Travis spread additional dangerous COVID-19 misinformation

    • Travis claimed data from Japan proved the vaccine “is actually making people more likely to get covid”: “Japan’s data shows that the covid shot doesn’t work. At all. What we now should be discussing & analyzing is whether the covid shot is actually making people more likely to get covid. If that’s true, all Pfizer & Moderna shots should be pulled world wide.” [Twitter, 1/6/23]
    • Travis said the “covid shots should be pulled off the market”: “The covid shots should be pulled off the market. If we had an honest media that wasn’t owned by big pharma, they already would have been.” [Twitter, 1/7/23]
    • Travis complained about COVID “fear porn”: “False, I’m anti-death. No one hates death more than me. The covid shot people were the ones who spent years spreading fear porn about people who died without getting the covid shot. You jackals exulted in their deaths and even wanted them refused medical treatment.” [Twitter, 1/8/23]
    • Travis claimed Fauci is a “propagandist”: “Dr. Fauci says no one can mention the covid shot and Damar Hamlin. Fauci isn’t a scientist, he’s a propagandist. And a criminal.” [Twitter, 1/9/23]
    • Travis quote-tweeted Alex Berenson to claim “young men in particular are under heart danger from the covid shots”: “The evidence continues to mount that young men in particular are under heart danger from the covid shots.” [Twitter, 1/11/23]
    • Travis accused “the media” of being “complicit in selling what appears to be a lie, which is that there's no risk factors whatsoever that come from young people who have zero risk from COVID getting a COVID shot that we barely tested at all.” He concluded that the COVID-19 shot is “poison” to young adults. [Outkick, Outkick the Show with Clay Travis, 1/11/23]
    • Travis declared, “If you are young and healthy, there is no reason why you should have ever gotten the COVID shot — just, there isn't.” He added that the “essence of science” is to ask, “Is it possible that this COVID shot — in the event that he got it — could have created a situation where he was more susceptible to a heart attack from things that happened on the field than he would have been otherwise.” [Premiere Radio Networks, The Clay Travis and Buck Sexton Show, 1/9/23]
    • Travis warned that a study exploring the link between strokes and a COVID-19 booster was “just the tip of the iceberg.” “The CDC just announced they are investigating strokes in older people caused by the new covid booster shots. Just the tip of the iceberg here, y’all. These shots are garbage.” [Twitter, 1/13/22]
    • Travis said that “the covid shot may be worse than garbage, it may be poison.” He then directed his followers to read Berenson’s substack. [Twitter, 1/18/22]