Friend Defends Herman Cain from Trump Rally Criticism and Insists He Did Take Coronavirus Seriously

Here is what Herman Cain's friend and colleague Dan Calabrese, who announced his death to the world on Thursday morning, would like to say about criticism that Cain treated the novel coronavirus flippantly — only weeks before it killed him.

The radio and TV host and former business executive, who was a headline-grabbing 2012 Republican presidential candidate, died about a month after he became sick with the novel coronavirus disease. He was 74.

"To me, where he got it, it’s kind of neither here nor there. But I wish people would stop trying to turn it into a political angle in that way," Calabrese, the editor of Cain's website, tells PEOPLE.

"This is such a partisan age and people get defined by where they stood on the political spectrum and I’m sure a lot of people will define Herman in that way," Calabrese says. "That was so much not who he was. His favorite thing to do was to help people see a way forward in their lives."

Calabrese pushed back on what he calls the overconfident assumption by some that Cain got sick while attending President Donald Trump's Oklahoma rally last month while not wearing a mask, at an event officials believe is linked to other new infections.

Cain had traveled widely before he got sick, Calabrese says.

"I want people to know he did a lot of traveling that week, he traveled to Vegas, he was gonna go to Arizona and I think his flight got redirected. He was on several flights," Calabrese says. "The whole conclusion that people are jumping to that he got it at the Tulsa rally — I think that a lot of people are jumping to that conclusion because they want to, but we have no reason to think he got it there as opposed to some of the airplanes he might have been on."

Cain had spent most of July getting treated for COVID-19 in an Atlanta-area hospital. His team has said that he tested positive on June 29 and he began showing symptoms on July 1 before he was then hospitalized.

Earlier this week, Cain’s representatives said in an update that he was still in the hospital and was “being treated with oxygen for his lungs.”

"As recently as a week ago, it seemed pretty hopeful. … We did feel pretty encouraged, because it was like if anyone is going to pull through it’s gonna be him," Calabrese tells PEOPLE. But Cain's condition appeared to take a sharp turn in more recent days: "It didn’t seem like it was getting better like he should have."

Cain is survived by his wife, Gloria, children Vincent and Melanie and their three grandchildren.

"They need our love, our support and our prayers," Calabrese wrote Thursday. "Nothing I talked about above meant as much to him as these wonderful people did, and because he loved them so much, we will continue to feel his impact on the world through them."

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