Update (3/21/20): Las Vegas Review-Journal publisher, CEO, and editor Keith Moyer told Media Matters in a March 20 email that the publication has cut ties with Root. Moyer stated: “Increasingly, Mr. Root’s advertising, marketing and other media interests had begun to broadly diverge from the journalistic standards and intentions of the Review-Journal. That compelled us to end our relationship with him. We wish him well.” When asked if the decision was related to Root’s silver promotions, Moyer replied that “it was, indeed, a factor.”
Newsmax TV host and Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist Wayne Allyn Root has been dangerously suggesting to people that if they get the coronavirus, they should take doses of an “alkaline structured silver” product he endorses because it supposedly “kills [the] virus” and can “save your life.” Root is recommending products from Dr. Gordon Pedersen, who has claimed that his version of silver can “protect people from the Coronavirus" and help people suffering from it "recover more quickly.”
As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes, “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.” When it comes to taking silver, the National Institute of Health’s National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health states: “Scientific evidence doesn’t support the use of colloidal silver dietary supplements for any disease or condition.” It adds that “silver has no known function or benefits in the body when taken by mouth” and “silver is not a nutritionally essential mineral or a useful dietary supplement.”
The Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission have sent warning letters to companies for promoting silver products “that claim to treat or prevent COVID-19.” 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.”
Root is the host of The Wayne Allyn Root Show on Newsmax TV. He also hosts a radio show for USA Radio Network and writes a column for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He has a long history of pushing right-wing conspiracy theories and lies. Root is a supporter of President Donald Trump, who has quoted Root on Twitter and endorsed his 2015 book.
On his March 11 Newsmax program, Root downplayed concerns about coronavirus, claiming that the coronavirus is “no different than the flu” (it is different) and the pandemic is a “media creation.” He ended his program by stating, “‘My Doctor Suggests’ message is next. You fear coronavirus, here’s a very important message now.”
Newsmax then aired an ad for MyDoctorSuggests.com featuring Gordon Pedersen, who claims to have an “all-natural solution” that “destroys” things like “viruses.” Pedersen said he’s “taken the old inferior silver of the past -- we called it colloidal silver -- and I’ve made it into a structured alkaline form.” (The advertisement also touted a promo code specific to Root.)
Pedersen runs My Doctor Suggests, a Utah-based company whose “flagship product is a next generation therapeutic silver solution.” Its website claims that “Pedersen is the global leading authority of Silver and has dedicated 25 years to researching and developing the safest, natural forms of silver and the benefits for the body.” It sells numerous products related to his “alkaline structured silver,” including silver gels, soaps, lozenges, and liquids.
My Doctor Suggests has a list of 83 ailments that his products can supposedly be used against, including chicken pox, influenza, and kidney and liver disease. The company has even said that its products could be used in place of childhood vaccines.
Root is a prominent endorser of both “alkaline structured silver” and Pedersen. He filmed a video “testimonial” for Pedersen and has a long endorsement on MyDoctorSuggests.com. During a video uploaded on December 31, 2019, Root said he drinks the silver solution “all day long like I’m an alcoholic drinking booze. I love it. I’m addicted to it.”
He has also taken to Twitter to endorse alkaline silver. He tweeted on March 9 that if he ever got coronavirus, he’d use “massive doses of alkaline structured silver. Kills virus and inexpensive”:
On March 14, he tweeted a link to an article about Americans hoarding products because of the coronavirus pandemic and wrote that “the only thing anyone SHOULD be hoarding is Vitamin C, Kyolic Garlic, Probiotics and Alkaline Structured Silver products from MyDoctorSuggests. I use those every day. They just might save your life.”
While Root specifically endorsed silver products from My Doctor Suggests in that tweet, he did not disclose that he has a financial relationship to the company. The FTC has said: “If you endorse a product through social media, your endorsement message should make it obvious when you have a relationship ('material connection') with the brand.”
A March 15 Las Vegas Sun editorial criticized Root -- though not by name -- for having “tweeted a false claim that the disease could be killed with nothing more than Vitamin C and the same type of silver product that [Alex] Jones was selling. This isn’t just journalistic malpractice. It’s dangerous behavior.” Root responded by disingenuously claiming: “Las Vegas Sun today Editorial attacked me for 1 tweet. I told my holistic approach to health: Vit C, Garlic, Probiotics, Silver to strengthen immune system. Ever shop at Whole Foods? Millions do. Most are liberal. LV Sun just attacked all as frauds for believing in vitamins. Evil.”
Gordon Pedersen says his silver will “protect” against the coronavirus and make it “leave your body. You just never get the sickness”
Pedersen has repeatedly claimed that his alkaline silver helps combat COVID-19. For instance:
- In a January 30 YouTube video titled “CORONAVIRUS! How to Protect Yourself and Your Family,” Pedersen said of his alkaline silver: “This might be the most important thing that you purchase maybe in the next few months if you're around people with the coronavirus because here's what happens. The silver destroys the virus that causes the coronavirus. The silver on your hands gives you five hours of protection.” He later said that using his silver means “when the virus does come in your body, it's going to attach to the silver and leave your body. You just never get the sickness.” (The Pedersen YouTube videos noted here are now unlisted but are still accessible through MyDoctorSuggests.com's Twitter account and have received several thousand views collectively.)
- In January 30 YouTube video titled “Coronavirus Best Solution! Hand Sanitizers! Structured Silver Gel from Dr. Gordon Pedersen” he said he drinks his silver liquid to get it into his “bloodstream circulating around [so] that in case the virus gets into my bloodstream through inhalation or eating foods or my eyes, that [the silver is] going to be in my bloodstream ready to usher it out as soon as it gets into my body.”
- Pedersen is the medical director for something called The Silver Health Institute. The organization sent a February 3 press release quoting Pedersen stating that “because the Coronavirus is a virus and it has been proven that Alkaline Structured Silver will destroy all forms of viruses, it will help protect people from the Coronavirus, as well as will help people recover more quickly that are suffering from it.”
- Pedersen published a February 4 YouTube video (“Best Protection for Coronavirus with Dr Gordon Pedersen”) in which he said that “the number one thing I can do is I can put this gel on my hands. Number one thing.” He then put his alkaline silver gel on his face and on the inside of a surgical mask.
- Pedersen filmed a March 3 Facebook video in which he traveled to Italy and said he’s “traveling … with confidence” because he’s been using his silver products.
My Doctor Suggests advertises on Facebook and Instagram, though those ads do not appear to include direct mentions of coronavirus.
Media Matters has reported on how Newsmax has tried to profit off of the coronavirus by pushing false information about vaccines and even telling people not to get a coronavirus vaccine when it becomes available (the company has since distanced itself from the coronavirus vaccine advice).