In this Jan. 12, 2021, file photo, a pharmacist with Walgreens Pharmacy prepares a syringe with the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in Coral Gables, Florida. Credit: Lynne Sladky / AP

Dick Farrel, a longtime conservative radio host based in Palm Beach County, Florida, who was skeptical of the seriousness of the coronavirus pandemic and refused to get vaccinated, has died of COVID-19.

He died on Aug. 4, after 20 days at St. Mary’s Hospital in West Palm Beach, said Kittie Farley, his fiancée. He had tested positive for COVID-19 on July 6 and was hospitalized nine days later.

Farley said in a telephone interview that Farrel “was very passionate about what he believed in. And he believed in his freedom and that’s why he didn’t get the shot because there are so many unknowns and you don’t know what to believe.”

While in the hospital, she said, Farrel changed his mind about the vaccine. “For himself, he felt he should have gotten the shot. We don’t know if he would have gotten as sick, but it would have been precautionary,” she said. (Farley got vaccinated after Farrel got sick.)

Dick Farrel was the professional name used by Farrel Austin Levitt. He had turned 65 on Aug. 1, while hospitalized just before he died, Farley said. Services are Friday at Beth Israel Memorial Chapel west of Boynton Beach. Interment will be at Eternal Light Memorial Gardens.

Farrel — who Farley said loved being behind a radio microphone, which is how they met two decades ago — didn’t have a current radio gig. He’d been mostly doing commercials, Farley said.

COVID-19 denier

He used Facebook as a platform to disseminate his views, including on COVID-19 and vaccinations.

In a July 3 post, Farrel asked “why take a vax promoted by people who lied 2u all along about masks, where the virus came from and the death toll?” On June 30, he described the pandemic as a “SCAM DEMIC.” On June 27, he wrote, “so you wanna take the Poison Pfizer and Moderna and J & J are peddling? have all you want. I know I don’t need it nor ever Will.”

The day after he tested positive for COVID-19 and eight days before he was hospitalized, Farrel called Dr. Anthony Fauci a “power tripping lying freak.” Fauci, chief medical adviser to the president and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has advised seven presidents.

On July 2, Farrel described the Delta variant as “another avalanche of Footchi bull shif.” On July 3, Farrel referred to him as “FOOT-chee,” and opined that people weren’t “falling for” the notion of fourth, fifth or sixth waves of the virus, “so, presto! Delta Variant,” a suggestion that the highly virulent strain of the coronavirus was made up.

Got sick

Farley said Farrel didn’t think he had COVID at first. He “felt like a tickle in his throat. Just a scratch or something.” He went to an emergency clinic where he was tested. Positive for COVID, she said he was told to go home and isolate.

“He thought he was going to kick this. We all did,” Farley said. “He didn’t know how sick he was. He felt he was getting better.”

Out of town at the time, Farley said the couple were texting. A friend went to check on Farrel in person and found him barely able to speak and breathing heavily. Farley said he then was hospitalized.

“He fought like crazy. He was wanting to come home. I wanted to come get him and bring him home,” she said. Having returned home to Palm Beach County, Farley said she wasn’t allowed to see Farrel in person before he died because he was on a COVID floor with no visitors allowed. A nurse connected them briefly on video shortly before he died.

Amy Hair, a sign language interpreter who has worked at many political events including presidential visits, wrote on Facebook that, “Covid Took One Of My Best Friends! RIP Dick Farrel. He is the reason I took the shot! He texted me and told me to ‘Get it!’ He told me that this virus is no joke and he said: ‘I wish I had gotten it!'”

Hair added a condemnation of COVID-19 and urged people to get vaccinated.

Radio and politics

Behind the microphone, “he was really a natural,” Farley said, with talent that might have had something to do with his entertainer-mother, who was a Rockette. The Rockettes are the dance company best known for performances at New York’s Radio City Music Hall.

Farrel was born in Fresh Meadows, New York, a neighborhood of the New York City borough of Queens. He was a graduate of Queens College and worked at radio stations on Long Island and in Westchester County. In Florida he worked at several Florida radio stations over the years, including WJNO, WIOD, WPBR, WJUP and WFLN, , according to information posted on the Beth Israel Memorial Chapel website.

He also served as a guest host on cable’s Newsmax channel. “Dick Farrel was a great friend of Newsmax and myself for over 20 years,” CEO Christopher Ruddy said on the Newsmax website. “Dick was a fun spirit, true mensch and great American. He will be missed.”

Farrel was a supporter of former President Donald Trump. Long before Trump ran for president as a foe of the Republican Party establishment, Farrel was a thorn in the side of the Republican Party establishment in Palm Beach County.

In 2006, he announced he would challenge then-Palm Beach County Commissioner Tony Masilotti in a Republican primary. He made his announcement before Masilotti announced he would not run again, a move that preceded his resignation and guilty plea on federal corruption charges.

His campaign signs proclaimed “Dick Farrel — Elect the Tax Killer.” In an interview, he said, “The County Commission is behaving like an obscenely drunken sailor on two weeks of shore leave,” and said commissioners were timid and vacillating, and they want to all just get along. I won’t get along with these people until they rehabilitate themselves.” Farrel ended up receiving 10 percent of the vote in a five-way Republican primary.

In 2004, he ran for vice chair of the Palm Beach County Republican Party against a candidate favored by the then-party chairman. Farrel received the votes of 12 of the 111 committee members who were present for the vote.

He referred to President Joe Biden as “Bydumb,” and his supporters as “Bydumb idiot voters.” He endorsed the false narrative spread by former President Donald Trump and his supporters that Trump won and Biden lost the 2020 election. “We all know” Trump won, Farrel posted in July.

Farley said her fiance was “always a very kind generous human being.”

They met when Farley was driving a political candidate around to different stops to collect campaign donations, and they stopped for a short spot on Farrel’s radio show. “I met him and there was a spark immediately,” she recalled in a telephone interview Thursday. He passed her a note that said, “You are pulchritude,” which means beautiful.

Story by Anthony Man, South Florida Sun Sentinel.