On Sunday, Fox News aired dangerous misinformation from Steven Hotze, a disreputable doctor who has a history of pushing “methods [that] are not supported by science and are potentially harmful” and sells bogus colloidal silver. Hotze used his Fox News platform to dismiss concerns about the coronavirus as people going “totally crazy” and told viewers to “conduct your life normally.”
Hotze is the founder and CEO of the Texas-based Hotze Health & Wellness Center, Hotze Vitamins, and Hotze Pharmacy. He appeared on a March 15 coronavirus pandemic special on Fox in which he said that “you've got to take charge of your own health” and referenced his center in urging people to build up their immune systems with vitamins (Dr. Amy Compton-Phillips, the chief clinical officer at Providence St. Joseph Health, responded in the segment by saying that interrupting transmission, not vitamins, would help stop the spread of the coronavirus).
He also dismissed concerns about the coronavirus, saying that “everybody has gone totally crazy about it” and recommending that people should “conduct your life normally.” The segments were part of Fox’s purported “news” division programming.
The Houston Press ran an extensive and damning profile of Hotze in 2005, which reported that Hotze has inflated his credentials; that “leading experts in women's health issues say Hotze's methods are not supported by science and are potentially harmful”; and that “Hotze runs an expensive one-stop shop for thyroid disorder, hormone replacement, yeast infections and allergies, when no medical records show Hotze has training in any of them.”
The publication also reported on Hotze’s promotion of colloidal silver, writing:
Colloidal silver is the quintessential snake oil, consisting of microscopic bits of silver -- a toxic heavy metal -- suspended in a gelatinous base. The online sale of colloidal silver to cure everything from jock itch to Ebola gives Internet porn a run for its money. In 1999 the FDA got so sick of colloidal silver salesmen that it issued a statement declaring that "all over-the-counter products containing colloidal silver or silver salts are not recognized as safe and effective and are misbranded."
One of the reasons they're not entirely safe is that they carry the risk of argyria, a severe buildup of silver particles in the tissue that can turn your skin blue. Permanently.
The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (part of the National Institutes of Health) echoed the FDA in 2004, adding that other potential side effects include seizures and kidney damage.
But that did not deter Hotze from making extravagant claims about the colloidal silver he sells through his dietary supplement store, Physicians Preference.
The use of colloidal silver has been back in the news because hucksters like Jim Bakker and Alex Jones have been attempting to pass off the material as a potential treatment or preventative for the coronavirus.
The Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission have sent warning letters to companies which claim to have products that can treat the virus with silver, with the FDA stating that it “has previously warned that colloidal silver is not safe or effective for treating any disease or condition.” New York Attorney General Letitia James has also called on Alex Jones to “immediately cease and desist selling and marketing products as a treatment or cure for the coronavirus.”
Hotze’s center promotes colloidal silver as a treatment, including for sinus infections and swine flu. His vitamins store sells colloidal silver under the name Argentyn 23, which is produced by Natural Immunogenic Corp.
Hotze is a bigot who has claimed that “‘Satanic cults’ were driving the ‘homosexual movement,’” compared LGBTQ people to “Nazis,” and said that Houston residents should “drive” LGBTQ people "out of our city.” He has repeatedly said LGBTQ equality will promote pedophilia and prayed that lawmakers who “support, promote and practice sodomy and other perverted, sexually deviant lifestyles” would “receive just retribution from God for their evil actions.”
He has a long history of supporting discriminatory measures against LGBTQ people. Mother Jones’ Tim Murphy wrote in 2014:
In the 1980s, Hotze was the Houston coordinator of a Christian Reconstructionist group called the Coalition on Revival, which contended then and now that “the ultimate cause of all disease, deformity, disability, and death is the sin of Adam and Eve” and that malpractice suits are un-Biblical. He has inflated his own credentials while endorsing a wide range of alternative treatments and theories (such as the idea that women have been “brainwashed” to take the pill, and should avoid birth control because it makes them less attractive to men) that public health professionals decry and insurance companies don’t cover. And for decades, he’s trafficked in hysteria over equal status for gay citizens, which he has said would give gay people “a free hand to come and have relations with a minor, molest a child.”
Hotze was an activist before he was an alternative-medicine guru. In the early ’80s, he emerged on the Texas political landscape as a voice against homosexuality. “Once you allow them acceptability, then you allow them to proliferate,” he told the Third Coast magazine in 1982. “And they proliferate by one means, and one means only, and that’s recruiting. And they recruit the weak. They recruit children or young people in their formative years.”
While Hotze has smeared LGBTQ people as pedophiles, he’s been a prominent backer of former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, who “multiple women have said ... sexually abused or assaulted them, or pursued them sexually or romantically when they were teenagers.”
Media Matters has documented how Fox News’ programming, including from most of its frequent medical contributors and commentators, has been spreading misinformation about the outbreak.