This guide will be continuously updated. If you spot a coronavirus-related health scam or grift, please feel free to email Media Matters.
Numerous media figures and outlets, especially in the right-wing media, have been profiteering off of the coronavirus pandemic by promoting health grifts and scams, including supposed coronavirus treatments, preventatives, and cures.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that “there is currently no vaccine to prevent coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus.”
Colloidal silver is among the most commonly touted fake coronavirus cures and treatments. The National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health explains that “colloidal silver consists of tiny silver particles in a liquid that is sometimes promoted on the Internet as a dietary supplement. However, evidence supporting health-related claims is lacking. In fact, colloidal silver can be dangerous to your health.”
Relatedly, Media Matters documented 10 companies that have used Facebook to peddle products that can supposedly “protect” against the coronavirus, “prevent” it, or “kill” it, among other claims. Media Matters has also written about five companies that are spreading a coronavirus conspiracy theory to promote products that supposedly protect users from 5G technology.
This guide includes the following personalities and media-related companies:
- Alex Jones
- Jim Bakker
- Wayne Allyn Root
- Steven Hotze
- Balance of Nature and Kevin McCullough
- Dustin Nemos’ RedPill Living
- The Silver Edge
- Live Longer Labs and Sarah Westall
- Tom Paladino’s Scalar Light
- Gabriel Cousens
- Rima E. Laibow
- David Wolfe
Jones is a conspiracy theorist who heads Infowars and an eponymous show. He has been selling bulk food at inflated prices and also hawking a variety of supplements as coronavirus cures and preventatives, including a colloidal silver toothpaste and zinc supplements.
The Food and Drug Administration sent Jones an April 9 warning letter demanding that he stop selling his products as coronavirus preventatives. New York Attorney General Letitia James has also told him to “immediately cease and desist selling and marketing products as a treatment or cure for the coronavirus” after Jones promoted his silver toothpaste.
Bakker is a disgraced scam artist who leads the PTL Television Network. He has heavily promoted products related to his doomsday prophecies and recently, as Right Wing Watch documented, attempted to sell a “silver solution” as a coronavirus cure.
The Food and Drug Administration, Federal Trade Commission, New York Attorney General Letitia James, and other government authorities have gone after Bakker for pushing his silver product.
Right Wing Watch: Jim Bakker Decries ‘Warfare’ That Has Forced Him to Stop Lying About His Silver Solution (3/24)
Wayne Allyn Root
Root is a columnist and host. He has endorsed an “alkaline structured silver” product from Gordon Pedersen and his company My Doctor Suggests. Root used his now-defunct Newsmax TV program and his Twitter account to tout Pedersen’s silver for people who are concerned about COVID-19.
New York Attorney General Letitia James has ordered Root “to immediately cease and desist from making misleading claims.” He lost his Las Vegas Review-Journal column due, in part, to his silver promotions.
Following Media Matters' reporting, the Department of Justice announced on April 29 that the “U.S. District Court for the District of Utah issued a temporary restraining order against defendants Gordon Pedersen of Cedar Hills, Utah, and his companies, My Doctor Suggests LLC and GP Silver LLC. The civil complaint alleges that the defendants are fraudulently promoting and selling various silver products for the treatment and prevention of COVID-19.”
Newsmax is a media company which produces an online publication, an array of subscription newsletters, and the cable channel Newsmax TV (which previously carried Root’s program). Newsmax’s health division has been trying to get subscriber money by selling a book claiming to offer “3 powerful secrets to never getting sick again,” including ways to ward off the coronavirus. The outlet also emailed readers claiming that “the worst thing” they could do regarding the coronavirus outbreak is to “get a vaccine when it becomes available” because vaccines are supposedly “a scam.”
Newsmax later distanced itself from the vaccine email, stating that “this marketing material was inadvertently published and it does not reflect the views of Newsmax.”
Hotze is an anti-LGBTQ Republican who heads a health and wellness center and has appeared on numerous programs to downplay the coronavirus, including on Fox News. Even though he has dismissed the threat of the virus, Hotze has used it to grift his audience by selling an expensive “Immune Pak” and has suggested that his vitamins could help “prevent" people from getting the coronavirus.
Balance of Nature and Kevin McCullough
Balance of Nature is a supplement company that heavily advertises on conservative radio programs and enlists radio hosts like Kevin McCullough, a conservative commentator with a New York radio show and a frequent guest on Fox News, to endorse its product. The supplement has been pitched to listeners as being the “only” and “best” defense against the virus, and also as a treatment against it when the first signs of symptoms occur.
Truth in Advertising: TINA.org reports Balance of Nature’s coronavirus claims to FDA, FTC (4/15)
HoneyColony is an online magazine and store headed by conspiracy theorist Maryam Henein. It has been trying to sell pricey colloidal silver products by falsely claiming that they can prevent the coronavirus. Its Facebook page, which includes false coronavirus treatment claims, has over 100,000 followers.
On May 4, the Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission sent a letter to the company stating that they found that HoneyColony was selling products that “are intended to mitigate, prevent, treat, diagnose, or cure COVID-19 in people. Based on our review, these products are unapproved new drugs sold in violation of section 505(a) of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.”
Dustin Nemos’ RedPill Living
Dustin Nemos is a conspiracy theorist and grifter who co-wrote the book QAnon: An Invitation to The Great Awakening, which became a bestseller on Amazon last year. He started the online store RedPill Living, which featured a colloidal silver “super concentrate” that purported to treat and cure the coronavirus. The store went offline after Media Matters contacted e-commerce platform Shopify for comment. It is now back online through a different platform. The store’s references to the coronavirus on its silver pages have been removed.
The Silver Edge
The Silver Edge is a colloidal silver company that is run by author and writer Steve Barwick. The company sells a “micro-particle colloidal silver generator” and has claimed that “colloidal silver beats coronavirus.” New York Attorney General Letitia James sent Barwick a cease and desist order on March 11 regarding his deceptive practices and false advertising.
State of New York Office of the Attorney General: Re: Cease and Desist Notification (3/11)
Live Longer Labs and Sarah Westall
Live Longer Labs is a self-described “life extension” company that has been promoting a line of carbon 60 supplements as a coronavirus “defense” and a way to “significantly” reduce your chance of getting infected. Sarah Westall, a YouTube conspiracy theorist with over 100,000 subscribers, has helped the company by advertising the product as a way to “protect yourself from coronavirus” and “a full-blown solution.”
Tom Paladino’s Scalar Light
Tom Paladino is a quack who has over 120,000 Facebook followers and appears as a supposed healing expert on podcasts and radio shows. He founded a bogus healing technique called Scalar Light and has told people that he can prevent numerous health problems, including cancer. He has shifted his grift to the coronavirus by telling people that he can easily “break apart,” “eradicate,” and “destroy” the virus in people if they sign up for his “healing” sessions.
Gabriel Cousens is an author who runs the Tree of Life Center US, an Arizona company that offers programs and sells supplements. He has been peddling various products through his online store as part of a “coronavirus prevention protocol” and has claimed that those supplements, which include colloidal silver, can “kill” and “destroy the virus.”
Rima E. Laibow
Rima E. Laibow is an Arizona-based doctor, commentator, and conspiracy theorist. She scammed people in 2014 by selling her brand of nano-silver as a cure for the Ebola virus. She’s now fraudulently selling that product as a solution to the coronavirus pandemic, claiming it's for “anyone interested in not being a statistic in this pandemic” and that it can support “your cell membrane that is your last line of defense against the COVID virus.”*
David Wolfe is a quack author whose Facebook page has over 12 million followers. He sells “coated silver” through a website run by his company Chaga Inc., which is registered in Hawaii. He’s been falsely claiming that people who take his silver can gain “immunity” against the coronavirus.
*CORRECTION (6/1): This sentence has been changed. It previously stated: “She’s now fraudulently selling that product as a solution to the coronavirus pandemic, claiming that it’s ‘your last line of defense’ and for ‘anyone interested in not being a statistic in this pandemic.’”