The conservative media outlet Newsmax has used hyperpartisan content to build an audience of right-wing seniors and bilked them through an array of scams and dubious products for more than a decade.
Christopher Ruddy, a right-wing journalist who cut his teeth generating conspiracy theories about the Clintons during the 1990s and a friend of former President Donald Trump, founded Newsmax in 1998. The company recently gained notoriety for its cable news channel, Newsmax TV, which relentlessly lied to viewers about Democrats supposedly stealing the 2020 presidential election in order to position itself as an even more pro-Trump alternative to Fox News.
Newsmax TV reportedly loses money, in part because it is required to pay hefty fees to cable companies to get them to carry the station. But the attention its programming generates helps build Newsmax’s brand among conservatives who might support the company’s other endeavors.
The Newsmax umbrella also includes Newsmax.com, a website with health and finance subsections; a magazine; a series of health and finance newsletters; online sales of products including nutritional supplements; and more than 70 email lists. These different products cater to what the company’s media kit describes as its “core audience” of “Boomer Power+” -- conservatives over the age of 45 who are more likely to have brokerage accounts and buy vitamins.
Newsmax products also share what New York Times columnist Ben Smith calls “the tone of conservative direct mail,” using fearmongering over the threat posed by Democrats to separate conservative readers from their money. And, per Smith, “it’s working: The company projected its 2018 revenues at more than $59 million, divided among advertising, subscriptions and e-commerce.”
Since its earliest days, Newsmax relied on its newsletter business to turn a profit. “I realized this was where we would make money,” Ruddy told Bloomberg Businessweek in 2014. “We had to do newsletters in order to keep doing the website.” According to a 2021 Washington Post profile of Ruddy, the newsletters constitute Newsmax's “core business model.”
The company currently offers five health and nine finance newsletters, penned by a host of dubious characters and priced between $39.95 and $109.95. If you want to learn how to use “nutrition and natural treatments to beat cancer and other killers,” a subscription for “The Blaylock Wellness Report,” medical huckster Russell Blaylock’s monthly newsletter, is just $54.95. Or for only $49.95, you can subscribe to “The Franklin Prosperity Report,” a monthly newsletter operated by Newsmax that is supposedly based on the “investment methods” of Benjamin Franklin.
Newsmax’s sizable, segmented email lists help the company amass both revenue and political power. In 2017, The Atlantic reported that the lists were “significant money-makers” and cited Ruddy’s claim that they contained 6 million individual email subscriptions. Newsmax regularly rents out the lists to Republican politicians and groups for their fundraising endeavors, which helps explain why would-be GOP candidates eagerly court Ruddy’s favor.
But Newsmax also sells access to its audience of conservative seniors to seemingly any scammer or fraudster who is willing to pay its fee, at times drawing scrutiny from government regulators. And the company peppers its own emails to the lists with calls to sign up for access to its various in-house con men.
During President Barack Obama’s administration, Newsmax hosted a series of particularly exhorbitant grifts. Several Newsmax webcasts featured high-profile validators who stoked the audience’s fears of potential hyperinflation, then offered the opportunity to avoid economic ruin by paying fees in excess of $1,000 for dubious Newsmax-backed financial products. Such shady investment schemes may resume now that a Democrat once again occupies the White House.
It’s sadly typical for conservatives to sell out their supporters for cash. But even by those low standards, Newsmax’s business model is grotesque.
Here are some of Newsmax’s worst grifts, scams, and cons.
2009: Newsmax offered a $1,295 package to get stock tips from Chris Ruddy's “private financial weapon.” In 2009, Newsmax invited followers to protect their investments from the purportedly socialist policies of then-President Obama by paying $1,295 for a year of stock advice from David Frazier, Ruddy's “chief financial adviser” and “private financial weapon.” Ruddy said that Newsmax was investing $1 million with Frazier and “David believes he can bring a 50% to 70%-plus return over the next 12 months to this $1 million.”
2010: Newsmax enlisted Dick Morris and Steve Forbes to help sell financial services for $1,495. In 2010, Newsmax teamed with discredited political commentator Dick Morris to sell something called the “Money Matrix Insider,” which consisted of information about how to invest in foreign currency exchange markets. Newsmax charged $1,495 for the package, which preyed on followers’ fears -- stoked by Morris and Steve Forbes -- about a coming financial meltdown triggered by Obama.
2010: Newsmax used a “summit” with Bill O’Reilly to sell pricey “hot commodities insider membership.” In June 2010, Newsmax hosted an “Economic Crisis Summit” featuring interviews with Bill O’Reilly and Morris, who warned of looming inflation under Obama. Newsmax used this rhetoric to sell a “hot commodities insider membership” for $1,495 or $1,995, led by someone named Dennis May. According to the presentation, the recommendation in each portfolio “will use the proprietary system Dennis May created” based on a “revolutionary formula that was developed by nuclear physicists in 1945” to “run over 30,000 simulations” in order to “predict the largest commodities profit opportunity.”
2010: Newsmax used O’Reilly interview to sell financial newsletter. Following that June 2010 “Economic Crisis Summit,” Newsmax used footage of O’Reilly to promote “The Dividend Machine,” a Newsmax newsletter by Bill Spetrino. A subscription to that newsletter at the time cost $99. O’Reilly and his then-employer Fox News later denied knowing his interview would be used to promote the newsletter.
2010: Newsmax turned to Sarah Palin to help sell its products. In October 2010, Newsmax hosted former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) for a “Make America Great Again” webcast. The event was essentially held to help sell trial subscriptions to Newsmax products along with Palin’s book.
2013: Newsmax used scammy “weird trick” emails to promote its financial newsletter. Newxmax has repeatedly sent emails over the years, including in 2013, claiming to know of a “weird trick” to travel on taxpayer-funded vacations and “add $1000 to monthly Social Security checks.” Those emails are for “The Franklin Prosperity Report,” a Newsmax newsletter that currently costs $49.95 per year.
2014: Newsmax scam email claims to identify “5 Signs You’ll Get Alzheimer’s Disease.” In 2014, as The Boston Globe reported, Newsmax sent an email with the headline “5 Signs You’ll Get Alzheimer’s Disease” that linked to a video from quack doctor Russell Blaylock “warning against flu vaccines, fluoridated water, and excessive exercising, among other questionable medical claims.” The Globe added of the claim:
“This is total conspiracy theory,” said Dr. Sean Palfrey, past president of the Massachusetts chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics and a professor of pediatrics and public health at Boston University School of Medicine. “The CDC has a whole website on these kind of hoaxes. There is absolutely no evidence that the flu vaccine, nor any other vaccines, nor exercise is associated with Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s.”
Newsmax publishes “The Blaylock Wellness Report” newsletter, which currently costs $54.95 for a one-year subscription.
2014: Newsmax sent sponsored emails touting marijuana penny stocks. In 2014, Newsmax sent sponsored emails touting the marijuana penny stocks MediJane Holdings and Earth Science Tech Inc. as investments. At the time, regulators were warning of the potential for stock scammers to use marijuana stocks as vehicles for pump-and-dump schemes. MediJane is now defunct while Earth Science Tech is trading at less than 10 cents a share.
2019-2020: Newsmax scam email: “Natural cure for Alzheimer’s.” In 2019 and 2020, Newsmax sent emails with the false subject line: “Natural Cure for Alzheimer’s.” The email contained a link to a Newsmax.com piece claiming that a “natural product … can reverse Alzheimer’s.” The emails also promoted a sign-up page for a “FREE Brain Protection Kit,” which in turn promoted the Newsmax newsletter of Russell Blaylock.
2020: Federal regulators called on Newsmax to stop publishing “misleading ads” regarding a supposed federal banking law. In March 2020, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation issued a press release calling on Newsmax to halt “misleading ads” for the company Monetary Gold, in which it “falsely asserts that federal law permits banks to ‘take its depositors' funds (i.e. your checking, savings, CDs, IRA and 401(k) accounts) and use those funds when necessary to keep itself, the bank, afloat.’ These assertions are false. Federal law is clear that in the unlikely event of a bank failure, customers' insured deposits would be fully protected up to the $250,000 limit.”
2020: Newsmax promised readers advice on “how to survive the Coronavirus outbreak” if they gave it money. Newsmax sent a March 7, 2020, email 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 advised people against getting a coronavirus vaccine once it becomes available, writing, “The truth is that vaccines are one of the biggest health scares of our lifetime—a scam perpetuated among the American people.” The company instead told people to get the book Super Immunity through a trial-subscription to one of its newsletters, Health Radar, which carries a non-trial price of $39.95 a year. Newsmax later distanced itself from the mailing.
2020: Newsmax claimed that subscribers can learn “secrets” to “never getting sick,” including from the coronavirus. During the start of the coronavirus pandemic, Newsmax also repeatedly sent marketing emails claiming that if you purchased Super Immunity, you can find “3 powerful secrets to never getting sick again,” including ways to ward off “coronavirus and cancer.” The message also included dangerous misinformation about getting a flu shot.
2020: During the pandemic, Newsmax promoted a scammy colloidal silver company that was later sued by the Justice Department. In March 2020, Newsmax aired a program featuring then-host Wayne Allyn Root in which he ended his show 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 claimed to have an “all-natural solution” that “destroys” things like “viruses” through a colloidal silver product. In April, the Department of Justice announced 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.” (Root’s program no longer airs on Newsmax TV.)
2020: Shortly after Biden’s election, Newsmax sent sponsored messages stating that readers should invest in gold because he’ll be president soon. Following President Joe Biden’s election victory on November 3, 2020, Newsmax sent sponsored messages from companies urging readers to invest in gold because “the election is over'' and Biden will soon be inaugurated. At the time of those advertisements, Newsmax was constructing the false reality that Trump actually won the election.
Ongoing: Newsmax has sent numerous sponsored emails for Stansberry Research, which was previously fined for engaging in fraud. Throughout the years, Newsmax has sent sponsored emails for Stansberry & Associates. The financial firm has a disreputable history that includes being fined $1.5 million for engaging in “deliberate fraud” and profiting from “false statements.”