An official from Florida's Hillsborough County Republican Party — which has been busy mobilizing members to protest coronavirus restrictions such as school mask mandates — has died from COVID-19.
Now, the GOP official's friends and colleagues are spreading wild conspiracy theories about the "engineered virus," and alleging he was "illegally intubated" at a local hospital, according to a report from the Tampa Bay Times.
Gregg Prentice, a software developer who headed the local party's "election integrity" committee, recently checked in to Tampa General Hospital after experiencing "brain fog" and difficulty breathing, according to his friend, Jason Kimball. Prentice was placed on a ventilator and died the next day.
"Two days after Prentice's death, Kimball called for an investigation into Tampa General during the public comment period of the Tampa City Council meeting and accused the hospital of 'intubating people illegally,'" the Tampa Bay Times reports. "The remarks from Kimball earned a strong rebuke from members of the City Council who swiftly defended the hospital as a world-class medical institution. John Dingfelder called Kimball's comments 'very dangerous.'"
On Facebook, Kimball wrote: "Tampa General Hospital ER and ICU doctors are criminals and murderers!!! They intubate everyone and stick them on a ventilator for NO REASON just 'out of precaution' as the doctor told me - WITHOUT consent from the family!!! Tampa General Hospital is evil."
"We have a genetically engineered virus spreading around Florida," Kimball added. "We lost Gregg Prentice, a mentor to many in Hillsborough County, due to the engineered virus."
Prentice himself railed against local COVID-19 restrictions on his Facebook page last year.
"I am just hearing that our County Administrator Mike Merrill has PROHIBITED gatherings of more than 50 people?!?!?!" Prentice wrote in March 2020. "What is his problem? How in the world does he take a CDC 'suggestion' and a Presidential 'recommendation' and turn it into a Merrill PROHIBITION?!?!? This kind of stupid isn't limited to a single topic. And what are we going to do about it? He needs to be gone."
A month later, Prentice wrote, "We need more socialist distancing than we do social distancing."
"End Faucism," he wrote in May 2020.
The Tampa Bay Times notes that the Hillsborough County Republican Party recently hosted anti-mask, anti-vaxx Georgia Republican Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene at its annual fundraiser — a maskless indoor event that went against CDC recommendations. Prentice also recently appeared on a podcast during which the host referred to COVID-19 as a "plandemic" and said it was designed to "crush small businesses and consolidate power in the multinational corporations."
During his many years working for the party, Prentice focused heavily on Florida's voter databases — often levying "severe accusations" at elections supervisors in Democratic counties, with his work drawing the attention of national conservative groups and GOP officials, who consulted with him when writing legislation. As head of the election integrity committee, Prentice led efforts to question election results in various counties, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
"The Hillsborough County GOP has called for a review of the 2020 election in Florida — a state former President Donald Trump won by more than 3 percentage points — similar to the partisan recount unfolding in Arizona," the newspaper reported.