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What I Would’ve Asked Coronavirus Truther Clay Travis If He Hadn’t Ducked My Emails

When I last had a full-time job, in October, Clay Travis was a talking head whose 10-year-old jokes were mostly confined to a Fox Sports 1 gambling show. In terms of TV, that’s as close as a person can get to being banished to the Phantom Zone. Any time I’d write about him at my gig–this happened a handful of times–many of the commenters would be baffled as to who this person was, and annoyed that I had brought him into their lives.

Roughly six months later, that FS1 gambling show still exists and is sucking major wind, but as the novel coronavirus has spread across the world, Travis has positioned himself as the only person who will tell you that an infectious disease without a vaccine is not a big deal. In his eyes, epidemiologists who show worst-case scenarios are spreading “fear porn.” Catchy!

Last month I wrote for The Outline about how Travis’s amateur analysis of COVID-19 data was harmful and plain wrong. This is a huckster who struggles with numbers when he makes gambling picks, and demands ESPN stick to sports, yet he feels confident enough to armchair-doctor a plan to contain the coronavirus and save the economy.

Since we had a week to write about anything at Unnamed Temporary Sports Blog, I thought I’d try to get Travis for an interview. Now, in the interest of transparency, I have in the past described him as a “braying jackass,” “full of shit,” a “bearded baby,” a “fucking mook,” “a solid barometer for stale sports morons who are always wrong,” and “a contrarian tryhard whose existence serves as a cautionary tale,” so I’m not an unbiased party. But Travis is one of those people who relishes the chance to debate, so I figured he’d be open to defending his viewpoints. On April 14, he successfully goaded NFL writer Peter King into coming on his radio show, under the cynical guise of raising money for charity. Maybe he’d have a lively chat with me over the phone.

I emailed Travis on Wednesday; no response. I followed up Thursday afternoon, but still no reply. He definitely checks his email, and I didn’t receive a bounceback. I also can’t imagine that his schedule is very busy right now. All of these factors lead me to the conclusion that Clay Travis is the very thing he tells his audience not to be.

Here are some of the questions I would’ve asked Travis, had he responded. Unfortunately today is the final day of Unnamed Temporary Sports Blog (follow us here after you read every post!), so it seems this interview won’t be happening. Feel free to ask Clay any of these yourself. Perhaps you’ll get the answers that I couldn’t.

  • On March 2, you said, “Unless you’re over the age of 80 or already sick with something else your chances of dying from the coronavirus is virtually zero.” On March 11, you said, “If you are under 70 & healthy, you have nothing to fear.” Why the 10-year change in age over those nine days? To follow up, on Thursday, April 23, you lowered the minimum age of people who should quarantine to anyone over 50. Why? Would you admit now that those previous statements were incorrect?
  • On March 15, you pointed to how the United States had only 61 total deaths as proof that the coronavirus was being handled. The U.S. is now at over 49,000 deaths, and this is with all the isolation/social distancing measures enacted in the past two months. This week, you made the unsubstantiated claim that “only” 327,000 people would die if every American were infected. If 327,000 people actually died, would you continue to say that the coronavirus was, in your words from February, overrated? How many would have to die for you to conclude that concern over the coronavirus had not been overblown? 500,000? 800,000? A million?
  • On March 21, you shared an article that analyzed data on the coronavirus outbreak. It was written by a person who had no medical expertise and believed he understood virality because he had previously worked at the startup StumbleUpon. The article cherry-picked data, and Medium eventually took it down because it violated the site’s policies. What about his argument was persuasive to you?
  • On March 27, you said, regarding the coronavirus, “If we pass yearly average flu deaths this spring, I’ll reconsider my opinion.” According to CDC data, the 2016-17 influenza season–the most recent season not based on preliminary estimates–had an estimate of 38,000 deaths. Again, at this time, the United States coronavirus death toll is over 49,000. Have you reconsidered your opinion?
  • I’ve noticed that you’re very insistent on opening the economy back up and allowing people to go back to work, even if it means more deaths. Why do you not instead put more pressure on the government to provide aid in the form of stipends, and other measures? Relatedly, is it true that you work from home?
  • In your own words, how deadly do you think the coronavirus is? In your mind, is it not worse than influenza, even in the absence of vaccines or herd immunity?
  • Why do you continue to use Italy as a defense against your critics when in March you were completely and repeatedly inaccurate in your assessment of what was happening there?
  • One of your arguments about how overblown the coronavirus is is that 2.8 million people die every year in the United States. Do you acknowledge that the people who have died from coronavirus may not have died if there weren’t a pandemic? Do you also grasp that death from the coronavirus is completely different than heart disease, cancer, or a car crash in terms of cause and contagion?
  • Do you have any members of your family who have been diagnosed with the coronavirus?
  • Would you still find it as overblown if you or your wife had a parent diagnosed with a case of coronavirus?