The founder of a sports website that hosts popular satellite radio shows and podcasts is calling himself a coronavirus “truther” after admitting that he is losing money as professional and college sports leagues cancel their seasons in response to the outbreak.
Dave Portnoy, the founder of the satirical blog Barstool Sports, has been publicly discussing the novel coronavirus outbreak since at least January 30, when he told co-hosts of the website’s Barstool Rundown podcast that he didn’t believe coronavirus is “a thing,” declaring: “It’s like a common cold.”
Portnoy mentioned in the late January video that he has “a long history of not being scared by viruses,” and comments he made on his website and during the 2014 Ebola outbreak -- which ultimately killed more than 11,000 people -- show that he believed the threat caused by that epidemic was overblown as well. “So what is everybody freaking out about?” he wrote in an October 1, 2014, blog post. “I feel like more people get killed by wild rhinos in Africa than Ebola. I’m not scared in the least. Hey Ebola get out of my face pussy. Worst epidemic ever.”
In a March 4 episode of SiriusXM's Barstool Radio, Portnoy explained that his interest in the coverage had to do with money, saying that he’s focused on the coronavirus outbreak “because of what it's doing to me personally on a financial level” and that he doesn’t “care about the people dying, I don't care about a lot of things, I just care about my wallet.”
He also noted outright that he thought Ebola was a “fraud,” saying that he was willing to inject one of his employees with it to prove it was a hoax and noted that the death toll of coronavirus in the U.S. was primarily due to elderly people who died at a Washington nursing home where the virus broke out early.
Kevin “KFC” Clancy, a Barstool Sports blogger and podcast host, tried to push back on Portnoy’s claim that the COVID-19 threat was being overblown during a March 9 episode of Barstool Rundown. The website’s founder dug in his heels when Clancy noted that “when you read 500 cases and 22 deaths, that's a big number," asking incredulously, “Why?”
On March 11, after the NBA announced that it is taking the unprecedented move of suspending the rest of basketball season, Portnoy posted an “emergency press conference” video via Twitter in which he declared himself “a corona 'truther'” and said he believes concern over the virus is either a “fraud, overreaction, or media concoction.” He also downplayed the severity of the disease and incorrectly compared COVID-19 to the flu.
Portnoy’s complaints about the novel coronavirus outbreak come on the heels of another minor scandal in which he urged an employee to attack a NASCAR reporter who criticized his website.