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Lisa McDaniel is not only grieving the death of her husband of 31 years, John, but she is also dealing with a “floodgate” of public backlash against his social media posts that had expressed skepticism about the coronavirus.
After his old posts went viral and were picked up by several media outlets, she and her family even had to cancel plans to livestream his funeral service online.
"We will never be able to erase from our hearts and minds the negative posts that have been made and shared about John this past week," Lisa said in a statement.
John McDaniel, 60, of Marion, Ohio, died “peacefully” at a hospital on April 15 after suffering complications from COVID-19, according to an obituary shared by the family's funeral home.
McDaniel was a massive OSU fan who loved the outdoors and fishing, smoking cigars, taking selfies in nature, and entertaining his family and friends with his jokes, stories, and music.
He was about to be a father-in-law as both his sons were engaged.
And he was looking forward to building a family cabin on more than 50 acres of land in Marion County, where he and Lisa had planned to enjoy their retirement years.
Those plans were cut short when McDaniel was diagnosed with COVID-19 and died.
But as his family mourn the beloved father, husband, uncle, and brother, they are also dealing with the fallout of McDaniel’s social media posts from March in which he appeared to criticize the Ohio governor’s stay-at-home orders and suggested that COVID-19 was “a political ploy.”
“If what I'm hearing is true, that [Gov. Mike] DeWine has ordered all bars and restaurants to be closed, I Say Bullshit!” McDaniel reportedly said in one post. “He doesn't have that authority. If you are paranoid about getting sick just don't go out. It shouldn't keep those of us from living our lives.”
Another post said, “Does anybody have the guts to say this Covid19 is a political ploy? Asking for a friend. Prove me wrong."
With social distancing limiting the number of people who could attend his funeral, McDaniel’s family had planned to livestream his service on Facebook so that others could grieve and pay tribute to him.
But on Wednesday, Lisa McDaniel said the family decided not to livestream the funeral “to protect my family and John's legacy.”
In a statement posted to the Snyder Funeral Home's Facebook page, Lisa urged other families to abide by stay-at-home orders to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
But she also described how her grieving family would “never be able to erase" the negative things people had said about her husband after his death.
“Many, like John, made statements early on not fully aware of the severity of COVID-19; many have retracted their statements knowing now the effects of this pandemic,” Lisa wrote.
“We know if John was still here with us he would acknowledge the national crisis we are in, abide by the stay-at-home order, and encourage family and friends to do the same," she said. "But sadly he is not with us and we will forever have to live and cope with how his life ended far too soon."
Lisa apologized to those who wanted to tune in to the Facebook livestream "to share in our grief” and said that McDaniel’s funeral service would be privately recorded and shared directly with his family and friends.
She said that her husband had ordered his company to work from home on March 16 and that he “immediately self-isolated” as soon as he learned that he had been in contact with someone who had tested positive for the disease.
“As each day passes, we all are learning more about this ‘invisible enemy,” Lisa wrote.
She said she believed federal and state authorities had taken the “right action” in implementing quarantine and social distancing measures early on and that they were “effective in flattening the curve.”
After McDaniel was diagnosed with COVID-19, some members of his family, including his father and sister, added "staying home, saving lives" badges to their Facebook profile photos while asking for prayers for McDaniel.
Three days after his death, hundreds gathered outside the Ohio Statehouse to protest DeWine’s stay-at-home orders — one of several similar demonstrations in multiple states against lockdown orders that have become politically divisive.
In his obituary, his family thanked the nurses and hospital staff who tried to save McDaniel's life and urged everyone "to continue practicing social distancing to keep each other safe."
“During this time of mourning, John's story, along with early assumptions that he stated on Twitter and Facebook have turned into national news,” Lisa said. “This news has opened the flood gates for people to share their own misguided anger and unfounded assumptions about a man they don't know.”
That man was “an ornery son-of-a-gun and was often the first to crack a joke no matter the occasion,” McDaniel's obituary read.
He and Lisa had known each most of their lives having been friends in school. Their first date was on Aug. 27, 1987, and they were married just over a year later.
"The cancer diagnosis that John had received just months before could not stop them. They were partners in crime, sharing 31 years of love and fun together," his obituary said.
McDaniel was an entertaining storyteller who had a "knack for telling a story that 'accurately replaced' the history of special, unforgettable moments."
He spent much of his life in boats, fishing, drinking, and telling stories, especially in his favorite place for 50 years — his family cabin in Ontario, Canada.
He loved the outdoors and often pretended to be hunting when he "was really taking selfies," his family said in the obituary.
McDaniel, who graduated from Ohio State University in 1981, was also a lifelong OSU fan who loved attending games, tailgating, and partying with his friends.
He also loved music and would often DJ for special occasions or nights out on the patio for his family and friends.
But more than anything, McDaniel's family remembered him as a loyal and generous family man.
"He was truly protective of his family and the first one they would turn to if they ever needed anything,” his obituary said. “Simply put, Johnny McDaniel loved life and loved everyone he knew with his whole heart.”