Twitter users from both sides of the vaccination debate blasted Los Angeles Times columnist Michael Hiltzik on Monday after he published an unsympathetic take on those who have not been vaccinated against COVID-19, mocking a local Republican who recently died after contracting the disease.
''How does a piece laughing at COVID deaths, and thus the pain their loved ones go through, make it through the @LA Times editing process?'' former CNN employee Doug Heye posted on Twitter. ''Awful.''
The social media vitriol came swiftly and from all sides of the vaccine question as Hiltzik took aim at Kelly Ernby, an Orange County deputy district attorney and anti-vaccination activist who died of complications due to the virus.
''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,'' Hiltzik penned in his Monday column, using Ernby's death as a cudgel to those opposing government vaccination mandates.
''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 others from the fate they succumbed to themselves. There may be no other way to make sure that the lessons of these teachable moments are heard,'' he wrote.
Ernby, who was a California State Assembly candidate in 2020, died of complications caused by COVID-19 a week after telling friends she was very sick with the disease, The Orange County Register reported Jan. 4. She was 46.
''It was an absolute privilege to fight the good fight alongside Kelly,'' Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer posted to social media Monday. ''Her passion and her shining light will be forever missed.''
Ernby had commented on Twitter over the past year opposing COVID-19 vaccination requirements, saying publicly that such mandates were making Americans ''lose their freedoms.''
''There's nothing that matters more than our freedoms right now,'' she said, according to the Register report.
Hiltzik, however, showed little compassion in his column, saying that her opposition to vaccine mandates ''negated'' any ''good'' she may have done in life.
''Kelly Ernby's friends and family ask us to remember her for her career as a public servant and as a devoted spouse and mother,'' he said in the column. ''But let's not mince words: Her campaigns against public health measures negated whatever good she may have done in her other endeavors.''
''I'm going to laugh and mock you when you die,'' nationally syndicated show host Jesse Kelly posted. ''I might take an ad out in the L.A. Times specifically laughing at your death.''
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