A Labour MP slammed Talk Radio host Dan Wootton as a “dangerous conspiracy theorist” during a row over the Welsh ‘firebreaker’ lockdown.
Chris Bryant, MP for Rhondda, appeared on Wootton’s show on Monday evening, during which Wootton claimed that “science had forever used herd immunity to deal with coronaviruses”, confirming that he subscribed to the so-called herd immunity approach alongside “protecting the vulnerable”.
Wootton, who has hosted a regular show on Talk Radio since 2018 alongside his work as a columnist and executive editor of The Sun, has long-criticised lockdowns with a recent tweet referencing “our [the UK’s] march towards an authoritarian Covid state”.
When questioned by Bryant on how exactly the UK could protect the vulnerable amid a ‘herd immunity’ approach, Wootton declined to give specifics, opting instead to say there is “a whole load of ways to do it”.
Wootton did cite the Great Barrington Declaration, a controversial proposal was published by a right-leaning American thinktank, the American Institute for Economic Research, which garnered thousands of signatures from health professionals – as well homeopaths, therapists, or obviously fake personas such as Dr Johnny Bananas and Dr Person Fakename, Sky News revealed.
Bryant responded by saying: “You’re a nutcase, you’re a complete and utter nutcase, and you’re dangerous as well.”
Wootton then demanded producers “get rid of this man”, at which point Bryant’s microphone was cut off.
The most recent World Health Organisation (WHO) advice on herd immunity, published on October 15, clearly states that the term refers to “a concept used for vaccination” – not, as is commonly misunderstood, allowing a virus to move freely through a population.
The WHO has clarified: “Herd immunity is achieved by protecting people from a virus, not by exposing them to it,” adding “attempts to reach ‘herd immunity’ through exposing people to a virus are scientifically problematic and unethical.
“Letting Covid-19 spread through populations, of any age or health status will lead to unnecessary infections, suffering and death.
Bryant doubled down on his comments in the wake of the interview, tweeting: “I had no idea this man was such a dangerous conspiracy theorist.”
In response to accusations from Wootton that Bryant was in fact the “dangerous one” and “not listening to the science”, the Labour MP said: “You believe we should surrender to the virus which means additional unnecessary deaths plus the overwhelming of our NHS.
“I talk to my local physicians all the time. You’re just a loudmouth Trump-lite.”
Earlier in the interview Wootton said scientific evidence suggested there was “no link” between lockdowns and decreased mortality and urged Bryant to outline his reasoning for the lockdown.
Wootton did not cite his source for this claim, but it mirrors a findings of a research paper published by medical journal The Lancet, in which scientists said “rapid border closures, full lockdowns and and wide-spread testing were not associated with Covid-19 mortality per million people.”
But in the next sentence, the researchers state “full lockdowns and reduced country vulnerability to biological threats... were significantly associated with increased patient recovery rates.” Further down in the study, it is also stated that governmental policy of full lockdowns, when compared with partial lockdowns or curfews, “was strongly associated with recovery rates.”
The researchers involved have also highlighted the limited nature of the study, as the data capture ended on May 1 and only involved 50 countries – meaning the full impact of lockdown measures may not yet have been visible as restrictions had not been in effect for long enough.
Bryant responded to Wootton’s questioning by saying: “Well you don’t seem very bright then. It’s fairly simple. Our local hospitals are absolutely rammed full.”
Wootton asked for proof of statistics on hospital occupancy, claiming the government “was putting out false stats on this”, to which Bryant responded by saying his local intensive care unit (ICU) was around 75% full – around double what it was in 2019.
It’s not the first time Talk Radio has attracted controversy for its hosts’ presentation of the pandemic.
Presenter Jamie East left the station in late September, several weeks after colleague and comedian Mark Dolan cut up a face mask on air – a moment which then went viral as a video clip online.
Sharing the video East said: “It’s clear that Talk Radio has a clearly defined idea of where it’s heading, sadly not many of those ideals were a great fit.”