The Trump-aligned media company Newsmax has been trying to gin up paid subscriptions for its newsletter business by telling its older-leaning audience 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 is a right-wing media company that operates a website, cable news channel (Newsmax TV), and subscription publications. It’s led by CEO Christopher Ruddy, a friend and adviser to President Donald Trump. Newsmax TV recently debuted an evening program featuring notorious liar and former White House press secretary Sean Spicer and former Republican National Committee deputy communications director Lyndsay Keith. The network counts Trump lawyer Alan Dershowitz as a contributor and regularly features Trump campaign surrogates.
The Florida-based company also operates Newsmax Health, which purportedly offers readers “the latest health and medical news and advice from a group of renowned medical doctors.” Newsmax Health states that 87% of its opt-in newsletter subscribers are age 55 and over; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has warned that older adults are one of the main groups of people who are “at higher risk of getting very sick from” COVID-19.
One of Newsmax Health’s newsletters is Health Radar, which claims to feature "guest medical experts [who] offer ways to cope with health issues that plague readers and their loved ones, from cancer to memory loss, arthritis, heart disease, depression, and more.”
An information page for Health Radar tells potential subscribers: “Quite frankly, what your average medical doctor doesn't know about your health could literally get you killed. … Doctors are so busy these days they just don't have time to keep up with the latest treatments and advancements in medicine.”
Newsmax has been attempting to make money by spreading dubious information about the coronavirus. It sent a March 7 email to its subscriber list with the subject line “What The CDC Won’t Tell You About Coronavirus” and promised readers advice on “how to survive the Coronavirus outbreak.” In the email, Newsmax explicitly advises people against getting a coronavirus vaccine once it becomes available, writing (emphasis removed):
Don’t count on a wipe, a spray or a pump of anti-bacterial to save you from Coronavirus.
There’s something FAR BETTER and FAR MORE EFFECTIVE you can do to stave off coronavirus right now.
No, it’s not a vaccine.
In fact, the WORST thing you could do is get a vaccine when it becomes available.
The truth is that vaccines are one of the biggest health scares of our lifetime—a scam perpetuated among the American people.
Officials at the CDC lump influenza and pneumonia together making it impossible for the average person to figure out the real number of flu deaths.
Why would officials do this? Fear magnification.
They want people to get vaccines.
Instead, Newsmax suggested something that's “far more effective” is the information in the book Super Immunity by Joel Furhman, “a board-certified family physician and nutritional researcher who specializes in preventing and reversing disease.” Newsmax states that Furhman has “discovered how to double, even triple, the protective power of the immune system by boosting it naturally, meaning no drugs and especially no flu shots.” The email then links to a signup page which sends readers a copy of Super Immunity along with a three-month trial subscription to Health Radar, which carries the non-trial price of $39.95 a year.
After Media Matters subscribed to the newsletter today, Health Radar sent a receipt and additionally pitched a “special offer” for a dietary supplement with “an advanced formula targeted to support your immune system health.”
The Newsmax “how to survive the Coronavirus outbreak” email was also sent as a “special message from our paid sponsor, Newsmax Health,” to the mailing list of right-wing commentator Dick Morris on March 10 with the subject line “The Best Protection Against Coronavirus.” Newsmax represents Morris’ email list.
In contrast to Newsmax’s fearmongering about vaccines, experts have noted that getting a seasonal flu shot, while not preventing coronavirus, can help reduce burden on the health care system so it can better combat coronavirus.
Newsmax isn't alone in trying to cash in on the coronavirus. Trump conspiracy theorist and survival food salesman Alex Jones has been promoting the “great antivirals” for sale on his site by claiming that they are “literally a stopgap” measure against the spread of the coronavirus. The FDA and FTC recently warned televangelist Jim Bakker to “immediately cease” claiming that one of the products he sells can kill the virus.
Update (3/10/20): A Newsmax spokesperson responded to this article by distancing the organization from the email's coronavirus claims, stating that “this marketing material was inadvertently published and it does not reflect the views of Newsmax.” Here is the statement:
A recent marketing offer for a newsletter published by Newsmax suggested that vaccines were not healthy and should not be taken, including any possible vaccine created for the coronavirus. This marketing material was inadvertently published and it does not reflect the views of Newsmax. Newsmax does not have a policy opposing the use of vaccines. We encourage all our readers to follow the instructions of their doctor and all government regulations when it comes to the use of vaccines. We have no information to suggest that any particular vaccine is not effective.