LA Times Slammed for Column Saying the Mocking of Anti-Vaxxer Deaths Is ‘Necessary’

The Michael Hiltzik-written piece has received significant criticism

LA TImes
Getty Images

The Los Angeles Times is receiving blowback for a column published Monday that was headlined, “Mocking anti-vaxxers’ COVID deaths is ghoulish, yes — but may be necessary.”

In the piece, which is topped with a photo of an elected official who died of COVID-19 after “disparaging anti-pandemic measures,” Michael Hiltzik argues, “[P]leas for ‘civility’ are a fraud. Their goal is to blunt and enfeeble criticism and distract from its truthfulness. Typically, they’re the work of hypocrites.”

Hiltzik points readers to websites that feature “snippets and photographs of anti-vaccine advocates, often taken at their deathbeds” and says, “It may be not a little ghoulish to celebrate or exult in the deaths of vaccine opponents. And it may be proper to express sympathy and solicitude to those they leave behind. But mockery is not necessarily the wrong reaction to those who publicly mocked anti-COVID measures and encouraged others to follow suit, before they perished of the disease the dangers of which they belittled. Nor is it wrong to deny them our sympathy and solicitude, or to make sure it’s known when their deaths are marked that they had stood fast against measures that might have protected themselves and others from the fate they succumbed to.”

He concludes “there may be no other way” to turn these people’s deaths into lessons.

Online reaction was harsh. Some users pointed out that the URL of the piece questioned why people “shouldn’t dance on the graves of anti-vaxxers.”

Conservative pundit Mike Cernovich responded to a tweet from the Times that featured a link to the story, writing, “This column is having a lot of impact. Not in the way you intended. But it’s working. Don’t cry the next time you’re called the enemy of the people. You admitted as much in that horrific column.”

Others called it “horrifying” or suggested readers stop paying for the Times. There were comparisons of the paper to the National Enquirer and condolences for its staffers.

A representative for the Times did not immediately return a request for comment on the backlash.