The Trump-aligned outlet Newsmax has been sending marketing emails claiming that if you give it money for a book written nearly a decade ago, you can find “3 powerful secrets to never getting sick again,” including ways to ward off “coronavirus and cancer.” The message also includes dangerous misinformation about getting a flu shot.
The Florida-based company also operates Newsmax Health, a division which overwhelmingly caters to an audience of readers who are 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, Health Radar, has been trying to drum up business by advertising around the coronavirus.
Media Matters documented on March 10 that Newsmax sent an email 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.” The email was a pitch for people to buy the 2011 book Super Immunity by Joel Furhman, “a board-certified family physician and nutritional researcher who specializes in preventing and reversing disease.” Signing up for that offer puts people on a three-month trial subscription to Health Radar, which carries the non-trial price of $39.95 a year. (In other words, the book offer is a way to get people to eventually become regular paying subscribers to Health Radar.)
Newsmax later contacted Media Matters and distanced the organization from the email, stating that “this marketing material was inadvertently published and it does not reflect the views of Newsmax.” Newsmax also claimed that it “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.” (Still, Newsmax has repeatedly helped push dangerous claims which cast doubt on the legitimacy of vaccines, including regarding childhood vaccines.)
Despite their statement to Media Matters, Newsmax has still been sending anti-vaccine misinformation along with suspect information about ways to protect against the coronavirus. To be clear, the CDC states: “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.” The CDC also includes “steps to protect yourself” and others.
On Wednesday night, Newsmax sent an email with the headline “The Best Protection Against Coronavirus” that included extremely dubious claims, such as writing four times that it has found three “secrets to never getting sick.”
Newsmax wrote: “Besides washing your hands repeatedly, avoiding touching your mouth, nose, or eyes, and refraining from being in public places as often as possible, there’s one thing people of all ages overlook: You need to bolster your immune system — make sure your built-in armor is as strong as steel, as impenetrable as possible. And you need to do it now.” It then specifically claimed that Joel Fuhrman has found “3 powerful secrets to never getting sick again, revealed in Super Immunity, [which] are intended to show people how they can train their body’s immune system to ward off colds, coughs, congestion, sore throats, fever, infections, the flu — even coronavirus and cancer.”
It concluded that the book “may be the only real protection you have from the deadly virus."
But Newsmax’s email pushed misinformation about the flu shot by apparently referencing the mercury-based preservative thimerosal, writing: “Many doctors are now warning their patients against flu vaccines because they contain mercury, a brain toxin, which can lead to neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.” In reality, the CDC states: “Thimerosal has been used safely in vaccines for a long time (since the 1930s). Scientists have been studying the use of thimerosal in vaccines for many years. They haven’t found any evidence that thimerosal causes harm.”
Newsmax has been sending the “The Best Protection Against Coronavirus” email since at least February 28, according to a search of an account that receives right-wing emails. Newsmax has also advertised the offer with the text: “Special: Urgent Coronavirus Advisory for Seniors.”
Further highlighting Newsmax's cynical exploitation of coronavirus, the company appears to have deliberately worked in mentions of the coronavirus into a copy of an old marketing pitch. In October and November of last year, Newsmax sent an email containing identical paragraphs that also told readers they should get Super Immunity so they can discover “3 secrets to never getting sick again.” That older copy made no mention of the coronavirus.
The following is the March 11 “The Best Protection Against Coronavirus” email: