Conservative talk show host Charlie Kirk was slammed for peddling an anti-vaccine conspiracy theory after Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin collapsed during a game against Cincinnati Bengals on Monday night.
The 24-year-old footballer suffered a cardiac arrest and was administered CPR and a defibrillator before being taken in an ambulance to a nearby hospital where he remains in critical condition. The hit that appeared to have caused the injury came in the first quarter of the game when he was tackling Bengals receiver Tee Higgins.
Hamlin stood to his feet briefly and then collapsed.
While fans waited outside the hospital holding candles and shared posts praying for his speedy recovery, some saw it as an opportunity to suggest that a vaccine may have been the reason behind the collapse.
Mr Kirk offered his prayers for Hamlin in his previous tweets but quickly jumped the bandwagon of conspiracy theorists to say: "This is a tragic and all too familiar sight right now."
"Athletes dropping suddenly," he said in a tweet.
The Turning Point USA founder in 2021 had falsely speculated that more people have died after taking the Covid-19 vaccine than from coronavirus.
Adam Kinzinger, the outgoing Republican member of Congress, responded to Mr Kirk's tweet by calling him "the biggest piece of human garbage that can possibly exist right now". "I literally think you are done now. Using this tragedy for your BS lies is sick," he said.
Mr Kinzinger added: “Sick disgusting human beings. This isn’t politics this is straight up heartless, cold, evil.”
“Go to hell. Go directly to hell,” wrote Twitter user Conrad Close in response to Mr Kirk’s tweet.
“You’re the worst use of flesh and bones ever. Unconscionable,” added Andy Richardson.
Meanwhile, Buffalo Bills in a statement said that Hamlin suffered a cardiac arrest following a hit during the game. “His heartbeat was restored on the field and he was transferred to the UC Medical Center for further testing and treatment.
“He is currently sedated and listed in critical condition.”