I saw my father four times between March 2020 and March 2021. Each time, the conversation began with some version of this.

Me: Dad, you know I’d hug you but it doesn’t seem wise given the pandemic.

Dad: Nan, they’re overblowing it. It’s not as bad as they’re saying.

Me (not wanting to ignite a political debate): Dad, we really do need to be careful.

Dad: I’m 89. I’m going to die of something. If it’s COVID, it’s COVID.

Me: But Dad, it’s an awful death. It’s a lonely death because no one can visit you. The hospitals are crowded. And it’s often scary because people who have it can’t breathe.

He never budged in his belief. The assholes had won, right up to the part where my father died alone in a hospital in the middle of the night, April 27, 2021. This was after nearly a month of agonizing after his initial diagnosis.

Donald Trump and every enabler in his administration. Rush Limbaugh, whose obituary noted that on his radio show he’d likened COVID-19 to the common cold. And Fox News, a so-called news network that lied to him night after night after night.

Outright, bald-faced lies designed to keep viewers doubting anything that in any way reflected badly on Trump, a con man of such epic proportions that he makes people question what they see and hear with their own eyes and ears. All of it be damned. My beloved father was pleased as punch with his MAGA hat and his Donald Trump necktie.

It made me gag a little. People wonder how thousands upon thousands of us in this country manage to remain in relationship with friends and relatives who have been conned by this cult leader. It is often excruciating. They’ve turned into people we don’t recognize, spewing absolute nonsense. To hell with court documents, video footage, rulings of Trump-appointed judges, the once Trump-supporting Chris Krebs doing the job he was hired to do by keeping the election clean, endless examples of Trump-incited horror on Jan. 6.

They have an answer for everything. Encouraging violence against his own vice president isn’t even reason to pause and reconsider who Trump is or what he stands for.

Let alone the deaths of my father and 600,000+ other Americans, many of whom bought into the minimization of the virus by their trusted media sources. While brilliantly labeling other networks “fake news” and eroding trust in all but their own version of events, they’ve led millions of our fellow citizens down a dangerous path.

They know it now. Not all of them, but the tide is turning a bit. The abrasive Sean Hannity recently told his viewers to take the virus seriously after roughly 16 months of the opposite message. Whew, so glad you came around, Sean. I keep wondering how my father would have responded to that. But I can’t ask him, you feckless son of a bitch.

Laura Ingraham, Tucker Carlson, Jeanine Pirro, the smarmy group on The Five – may you all take a look in the mirror one day and ask yourselves what in the hell you think you’re doing for mankind. It’s one thing if you want to spin a Congressional debate to favor your side of the aisle. It’s quite another to supply a steady stream of bullshit that can and has killed your viewers. First the severity (or not) of the virus, then the consistent, persistent undermining of the vaccine.

You’re despicable, one and all. That word isn’t even harsh enough, but I don’t know how to better express the amount of seething that is occurring in the pit of my gut every day. My absolute and utter rage that Rupert Murdoch – yeah, I’ve been on his payroll twice – will get away with this. And it continues to this day!

I know there are those thinking, but hey, your father didn’t have to listen to them. He had a mind of his own. I’ve heard it called “willful ignorance.”

I hear that. But let me ask you this. How willful is it? You’re a Republican who has been watching this network for years. You’ve been taking what they tell you at face value. You’re so in it that you don’t realize their whole marketing plan is to make you angry and then feed that discontent. It keeps you coming back. That’s how their advertisers get paid.

Do you think I ever heard a family member demonize immigrants before Fox News came along? Did I ever hear the Republicans in my acquaintance refer to black people as “them” prior to the Fox drumbeat of racial division? This script has been ingrained in Fox viewers for years. Who knew it could reach the point of endangering lives?

Trump saw the space ripe for exploitation and nestled right in. And even many Republican politicians who found him reprehensible latched on to elevate themselves (paging the likes of Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz). Now we see them for who they are in the face of issues that are complex and require humanity outside the realm of politics. Soulless. With no bottom for depravity.

I’ve written before about how having Trump as President showed us flaws in our country that it was vital we see and address. Maybe that’s a glass half-full way to look at it, even as our democracy teeters. I do pride myself on remaining hopeful in the face of adversity.

It just never occurred to me I’d lose my father in the process.

(You can also see a YouTube video of me reading this column outside of Fox News Headquarters in New York.)