Is a Texas Republican politician’s vaccine denialism responsible for his own death? Here’s how the left and right fueled a partisan firestorm

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H. Scott Apley. Credit: NBC News
H. Scott Apley. Credit: NBC News

When H. Scott Apley died at 45 of covid-19, he became a face of vaccine refusal by the political right. A GoFundMe drive for his wife and baby son drew scorn as the Dickinson City Council member’s social media posts circulated.

In national news coverage and the online firestorm that followed, Apley was a lightning rod for the country’s frustration as it struggles to bring the virus under control. To many, his fatal illness was a consequence of sometimes skeptical and even hostile GOP statements on immunization, as millions of eligible Americans — disproportionately Republican — have yet to get their first shots.

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But for others who knew Apley, only one story mattered: His family was suffering, and now, with cruel comments and laughing emoji, strangers from out-of-state were piling on. In Apley’s political sphere, some said the tragedy was only entrenching people’s divisions over the vaccines and a resurging virus — much less sending people soul-searching about their beliefs or their party’s messaging.

“Everyone already has an opinion, and it didn’t change because of Scott,” said Marco Roberts, the Houston-based chairman of the Log Cabin Republicans of Texas. 

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