Over the weekend, Mike Huckabee kicked off the 43-city tour for his latest book, God, Guns, Grits and Gravy, which attempts to reintroduce the former Arkansas governor and Fox News host to the Republican primary electorate as he ponders a run for president in 2016. The “folksy” tome is reportedly filled with “references to mama, good ol' boys and Bibles” and other culture war staples, but light on “policy specifics.”
Huckabee was hired by Fox after failing to secure the Republican presidential nomination in 2008. He frequently used his eponymous program to bolster his own political ambitions, announcing his own possible presidential run on his final broadcast.
Media Matters looks back at how Huckabee rented his Fox-promoted email list out to an assortment of scamsters and conspiracy theorists (originally published here).
Mike Huckabee, who is parting ways with Fox News, has profited from renting his Fox-promoted MikeHuckabee.com email list to a wide range of shady characters, including a medical quack claiming Alzheimer's disease cures; a for-sale stock pundit that was fired from Fox; a financial firm that was fined by the government for engaging in “deliberate fraud” ; and a survival food company that profits off of readers' fears of being “herded into FEMA camps.”
Huckabee has previously denied responsibility for his shady sponsored emails, telling Media Matters: “You are supposed to read the disclosure and the disclaimer that is a part of the messages. You know, we are simply the conduit to send messages, these are sponsored and I can't always vouch for the veracity.”
Fox News helped grow Huckabee's email list, as Fox and the former Republican governor regularly promoted MikeHuckabee.com on his weekly program Huckabee. When visitors reach Huckabee's website, they're asked to sign-up for his email list.
The Medical Huckster
Huckabee has sent emails touting dubious Alzheimer's disease cures from huckster Dr. Russell Blaylock. Blaylock is so disreputable that Fox News contributor Scott Brown was forced to end his relationship with his list manager, Newsmax, after he was criticized for sending a Blaylock email.
Blaylock has pushed numerous dubious claims on a wide range of medical subjects. He is a repeat guest on conspiracy theorist Alex Jones' program, where videos of his appearances feature such headlines as “Dr. Russell Blaylock Exposes Obama's Nazi Healthcare System,” “Obamacare is Mandated Social Engineering,” and “Fluoride's Deadly Secret.”
Huckabee sent a January 16, 2014 email with the subject, “5 Signs You'll Get Alzheimer's Disease.” The email claimed Blaylock has found “Simple strategies and natural therapies to prevent, treat, and reverse memory loss, Alzheimer's, dementia, Parkinson's, and other neurodegenerative disorders.” Blaylock's medical claims, as The Boston Globe and Huffington Post noted, are based in “total conspiracy theory” and junk science. A Media Matters review found Huckabee sent numerous emails featuring Blaylock between September 2012 and January 16, 2014. Huckabee appears to have stopped sending Blaylock emails since the controversy.
The Fired Stock Scammer
Tobin Smith is a paid stock promoter so unethical he was fired from Fox News for violating network rules against the practice. Smith routinely trades what credibility he has to endorse risky penny stocks, many of which end up cratering in value. Huckabee has sent multiple emails from Smith -- after he was canned by Fox -- touting the stock recommendation of Gray Fox Petroleum (GFOX) at an entry point of “around $1.00” ; shares of the company have plummeted and are now trading at a near 52-week low of $0.06.
Huckabee sent emails from Smith (referred to in the email as a “Fox News alumnus” ) touting GFOX on February 14, March 17, and May 21 of 2014. The Smith-penned message implored readers to “Buy shares of GFOX now while you can still get them at around $1.00 and you could... TURN $10,000 INTO $282,000 in the next 6 months!” Someone who invested $10,000 in GFOX at $1 a share (10,000 shares) would now have $600 instead of "$282,000."
Fine print in the May 21 email stated that Smith “was paid the sum of $30,000 for his contributions.”
The “Deliberate Fraud” Financial Firm
Stansberry & Associates is a disgraced financial firm that was fined $1.5 million by the Securities and Exchange Commission for engaging in “deliberate fraud” and profiting from “false statements.” The Social Security Administration's Office of the Inspector General also announced in September 2011 that Stansberry & Associates, while not admitting a violation, “agreed to pay a $55,000 civil monetary penalty to the Social Security Administration” to settle an allegation it violated federal law by falsely suggesting it had “insider” information from the Social Security Administration.
An August 28, 2012, email claimed to have uncovered “A banking loophole no one has caught onto yet.” Stansberry claimed in another email that bank customers “can walk into your bank - say five simple, but specific words -- and walk out with physical silver ... As one reader told us: 'I never thought this would work. But it did! I tried it, and to my surprise, I got 34 silver coins from a single bank. Needless to say, Im [sic] going back for more! Thanks for the great idea!'”
In addition to its collection of fines, Stansberry has been widely criticized for deceptive practices by a wide range of sources.
Truth in Advertising, a nonprofit organization “against false advertising and deceptive marketing,” criticized Stansberry's “misleading” silver scheme, writing: “Several testimonials used to promote one of two retirement newsletters published by Stansberry - Retirement Millionaire - claimed that the newsletter gave them the secret to obtaining 'free' silver from U.S. banks. However, TINA.org learned that the silver was not free at all; consumers had to exchange their paper dollars for half dollars that contain silver -- and those were ones only minted before 1971.” The group also criticized the firm for customer testimony that “omitted vital information” and “contained blatant lies.”
The conservative publication Daily Caller called Stansberry a “fraudster” who has duped investors. In 2012, Newt Gingrich was forced to distance himself from the firm, with an adviser claiming Stansberry is blacklisted from Gingrich's mailing list (despite this, Gingrich still sends emails for Stansberry). The liberal-leaning Mother Jones noted that the firm “has a history of promoting dubious claims,” including predictions of “waves of violence and tumult across the United States and the impending implosion of the American economy.”
The Shady Survival Food Company
Food4Patriots is a survival food company that relies on fears of an upcoming catastrophe and Americans being herded into “FEMA camps.” Despite these red flags, Huckabee sent 11 emails for Food4Patriots in 2014, according to a Media Matters search. He also sent an email for Food4Patriots on January 3, the day he announced the end of his Fox News program.
In a February 22 email, the group claimed they're “putting together a new line of 25-year survival food ... And I guess the government must have got wind of what he was doing because FEMA just contacted his supplier and tried to buy up the ENTIRE stock of survival food!” The email claimed, “Why do you need your own survival food stockpile? Because when the 'you know what' hits the fan and all 47.2 million freeloaders are marching in streets cleaning out every grocery store like a swarm of locusts, you don't want to be in the same boat as the brainwashed masses and possibly herded into FEMA camps.”
Another email for survival food claims: “You've seen the evidence and you know the situation is way too serious not to do something about. When a crisis hits, you'll be ready. You'll make darn sure your family won't go hungry or get herded into a FEMA camp.”
Then-Think Progress reporter Zack Beauchamp, now with Vox, examined Food4Patriots in January 2014 and found that its revenue “came on the back of some (arguably) really shady practices.” He noted that the group's fearmongering about FEMA food hoarding is particularly dubious.