Ted Nugent
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Ted Nugent and Other COVID-19 Skeptics Who Contracted the Virus

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Ted Nugent
Gary Miller/Contributor/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images North America

Pandemic Skeptics

Conspiracy theories have become as common and dependable as dirt — so it's no surprise that many cropped up in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some insist the coronavirus is a media-invented hoax. Others acknowledge it exists but insist its seriousness is inflated. And still others object to government-imposed measures to curb the outbreak. Here are some famous and influential folks who flouted COVID-19 restrictions and precautions and caught the virus — including rocker Ted Nugent. 

Related: Are You Vaccinated? Claim These Discounts and Freebies as a Reward

Ted Nugent
Gary Miller/Contributor/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images North America

Ted Nugent

Gonzo rocker and arch-conservative Ted Nugent announced via a Facebook Live video in April that he had tested positive for the virus that he'd repeatedly called a scam and "not a real pandemic." Despite his illness — which the former rock star said made him feel like he "was dying" and that he could "hardly crawl out of bed the last few days" — Nugent has continued to promote false anti-vaccine conspiracy theories. 

Related: How Does Your State's COVID Vaccine Rollout Stack Up?

Melania and Donald Trump
Win McNamee/Staff/Getty Images News/Getty Images North America

President Donald Trump

There could be no coronavirus victim simultaneously more surprising and inevitable than President Donald Trump. The president spent several months denying the existence and impact of the coronavirus and even resisted wearing a mask to guard against infection, yet seemed unaffected by it — including politically, when reporter Bob Woodward revealed recorded conversations in which Trump admitted understanding the severity of the disease but hiding it from the public.

This tactic was upended in October 2020, after the U.S. COVID-19 death toll had passed 200,000 and Trump adviser Hope Hicks was revealed to have caught the virus. Two hours later, Trump tweeted that he and wife Melania Trump had tested positive as well. "We will begin our quarantine and recovery process immediately," he said — as people began wondering who else might have been close to Hicks and would also get sick, or at least be forced into quarantine. 

Related: Companies That Have Filed for Bankruptcy Since the Pandemic Began — and Which Ones Could Be Next

Herman Cain
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Former Presidential Candidate Herman Cain

Cain, whose team announced on July 2 that he was being hospitalized with COVID-19, died of the disease July 30 at the age of 74.

"We’re heartbroken, and the world is poorer: Herman Cain has gone to be with the Lord," an update on his website says.

In late June, the former president and CEO of the National Restaurant Association attended an Oklahoma rally for President Donald Trump, where it was announced hours before the event that six staffers and two Secret Service officers had tested positive for the coronavirus. Cain posted photos of himself at the rally without a mask and posited on social media that gubernatorial mask mandates set "aside constitutional government," although he noted in a separate online post that masks serve "as a useful layer of protection against the contagion." According to Business Insider, a tweet sent by his verified account on July 1 and deleted after his death, celebrated the fact that masks would not be required at Trump's Independence Day rally at Mount Rushmore.

Cain's team previously said it was unclear where the co-chair of Black Voices for Trump contracted COVID-19. Cain is survived by his wife, Gloria, their two children, Melanie and Vincent, and several grandchildren.

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Rep. Louie Gohmert
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Rep. Louie Gohmert

Gohmert, a Texas Republican who was scheduled to fly aboard Air Force One with President Trump, tested positive for the coronavirus during a pre-flight screening in July. The eight-term congressman was regularly seen without a mask and reportedly discouraged his staff from wearing them.

Gohmert said at the time he didn't "have any of the symptoms that are listed as part of COVID-19," and referred to the disease with what many consider an ethnic slur. During an interview with a Texas news station, Gohmert appeared to suggest that he contracted the coronavirus as a result of wearing a mask.

Footage from a Congressional hearing in July showed Gohmert in close proximity to Attorney General William Barr, and several of his colleagues in the House of Representatives have said they are isolating as a result of Gohmert's diagnosis.

National Security Advisor Robert O'Brien
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Former National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien

With a positive COVID-19 test result announced in late July, O'Brien became the highest ranking member of the Trump administration at the time confirmed to have the virus. Multiple photos of O'Brien on a recent Paris trip showed him — maskless — in close proximity with others. 

Related: Pandemic Phrases We Never Thought We'd Use Every Day

Doja Cat
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Doja Cat

In March of 2020, American rapper Doja Cat tweeted insults at people afraid of catching the virus and declared that COVID-19 is "a flu ... you just take some Mucinex and drink water and tea and sleep. That's all you gotta do." It was later revealed that she had contracted and recovered from the virus, which she blamed on a Postmates delivery. 

Rudy Gobert
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NBA Player Rudy Gobert

The Utah Jazz player, the first in the NBA to receive such news, had to offer up some major mea culpas after his March 11 diagnosis last year. Just two days earlier, he'd attended a press conference and jokingly touched many of the reporters' microphones and recorders. He subsequently apologized and donated $500,000 to support those affected by the pandemic.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson
Ben Shread/Cabinet Office

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson

Johnson was diagnosed on March 26, 2020, and subsequently hospitalized in the ICU, but that illness has done little to guard him against critics' charges that his virus response is "stoking a culture war," "killing Britons," and that he's "lost public trust." His leadership during the pandemic was also severely reprimanded by some of the country's top scientists, who say the country's death toll could have been cut by as much as 50% had Johnson acted sooner.

Pronunciamento do Presidente da República, Jair Bolsonaro em Rede Nacional de Rádio e Televisão
Pronunciamento do Presidente da República, Jair Bolsonaro em Rede Nacional de Rádio e Televisão by Palácio do Planalto (CC BY)

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro

After consistently understating the seriousness of the virus that has killed around 65,000 of his country's residents — a death toll second only to the United States — Bolsonaro tested positive for COVID-19 in early July. Before his diagnosis, the Brazilian president was often seen without a mask and ignoring social distancing guidelines. 

Senator Rand Paul
Wikimedia Commons

Sen. Rand Paul

The Washington Post reported that after Paul was tested on March 16, 2020, he did not attempt to self-quarantine in the six days it took to get the results — which were positive. He was, noted the paper, "continuing to cast votes on the Senate floor, delivering a speech lambasting a coronavirus aid bill, and meeting with other GOP senators in strategy sessions that defied federal advisories warning against gatherings of more than 10 people." 

Novak Djokovic at the Wimbledon 2017
Novak Djokovic at the Wimbledon 2017 by Charles Ng (CC BY)

Tennis Player Novak Djokovic

Serbian Djokovic, the world No.1 ranked men's tennis player, tested positive in June after organizing an exhibition tournament in the Balkans that did next to nothing to address coronavirus concerns. In addition to Djokovic and his wife, at least two coaches and three other players tested positive after the event. Prior to the hubbub, the tennis player had raised eyebrows for saying he wouldn't be vaccinated against the virus and for other questionable health claims, including a statement in May in which he claimed that "molecules in the water react to our emotions."

Belgian Prince Joachim
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Belgian Prince Joachim

This royal from Belgium — and nephew of the nation's King Philippe — broke Spain's quarantine rules by failing to follow a 14-day period of isolation. Two days after arriving, the prince attended a party at which there were nearly 30 other people. In addition to a COVID-19 diagnosis, the royal was fined about $11,000 and later apologized for his actions.

White House Staffer Katie Miller
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Former White House Staffer Katie Miller

As Vice President Mike Pence's press secretary, Miller — who's also presidential aide Stephen Miller's wife — often tweets out misleading messages from the VP about the pandemic. One recent example: A June 16 post in which she reiterated a Pence quote that claimed, "The media has tried to scare the American people every step of the way, and these grim predictions of a second wave are no different." Miller, who is reportedly pregnant, tested positive for the virus in early May of 2020.

Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt
Wikimedia Commons

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt

The Middle America governor posted a photo of himself with his family at a "packed" restaurant amid warnings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to avoid large gatherings — and then contract the virus. His diagnosis was announced on July 15. Stitt could have been infected while attending President Trump's Tulsa rally, where he did not wear a mask or attempt to socially distance, at least while speaking to reporters.

Photo of Kimberly Guilfoyle taken at photo shoot for Metropolitan Magazine
Photo of Kimberly Guilfoyle taken at photo shoot for Metropolitan Magazine by Jill Lotenberg (CC BY-SA)

Attorney and News Personality Kimberly Guilfoyle

Trump campaign staffer — and girlfriend of the president's son Donald Jr. — tested positive on July 3, less than two weeks after it was reported she attended a "maskless" Hamptons party, not to mention campaign events in Oklahoma, Arizona, and Montana. Guilfoyle has reported she's asymptomatic. 

Chuck Woolery
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Game Show Host Chuck Woolery (Actually, His Son)

While Woolery himself has not tested positive for the virus, his son has — and it made him change his tune pretty quickly. On July 12, Woolery tweeted, "Everyone is lying. The CDC, Media, Democrats, our Doctors ... I think it's all about the election and keeping the economy from coming back ... I'm sick of it." The very next day, before deleting his Twitter account, Woolery followed up with: "To further clarify and add perspective, Covid-19 is real and it is here. My son tested positive for the virus, and I feel for ... those suffering and especially for those who have lost loved ones."