Sinclair's Sharyl Attkisson promotes anti-vaxxer who sold fraudulent COVID-19 and cancer treatments

Attkisson to charlatan Joseph Mercola: “I hope people will check out your book”

Sharyl Attkisson and Joseph Mercola

Citation Molly Butler / Media Matters

Joseph Mercola is a quack doctor who has a history of defrauding customers and selling false treatments for the coronavirus and cancer. Sinclair Broadcast Group and Just the News host Sharyl Attkisson had him on a recent podcast, where she touted his work, helped promote his website, and encouraged people to “check out” his book. 

During the interview, Mercola promoted his book by falsely claiming that the coronavirus death toll has been “radically inflated” and referred to the pandemic as "the plandemic." 

Attkisson is a conspiracy theorist who hosts Sinclair’s Full Measure with Sharyl Attkisson and Just the News’ The Sharyl Attkisson Podcast. She has frequently spread dangerous medical misinformation, including regarding COVID-19. 

Mercola is an anti-science commentator who sells supposed “health” products online. The Washington Post reported in 2019 that Mercola’s “net worth, derived largely from his network of private companies, has grown to ‘in excess of $100 million,’ he said in a 2017 affidavit.” 

Medical experts have criticized Mercola for pushing bad medicine. In 2017, for example, founder and retired Dr. Stephen Barrett told reporter Kate Knibbs: “I think he’s the most dangerous health information source in the world. … Mercola attacks proven public health measures — vaccination and fluoridation — and encourages people to do all sorts of things that haven’t the slightest validity.”

Federal regulators have also focused attention on him over the years. The Washington Post wrote in 2019: 

In 2005 and again in 2006, the Food and Drug Administration warned Mercola that he was illegally claiming some of his products, including coconut oil, could help prevent or treat heart disease, cancer and other illnesses. 

In 2016, in response to a complaint from the Federal Trade Commission, Mercola refunded nearly $2.6 million to more than 1,300 people who bought tanning beds that he claimed could reduce the risk of skin cancer. The FTC said the claims constituted a “deceptive act,” pointing out that the product could actually increase the risk of skin cancer.

Mercola’s dangerous grifting has continued during the pandemic. 

Laura MacCleery, policy director at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, testified to a U.S. Senate subcommittee in July about coronavirus scams and called on federal regulators to take action against Mercola after her organization found “dozens of misleading claims made about at least 23 supplements and medical devices by Dr. Joseph Mercola.” She added, “On a recent episode of Mercola’s podcast, he actually advises consumers to take the immunity-boosting supplements he sells and then attempt to contract the COVID-19 virus deliberately, because his supplements will allegedly reduce their symptoms.” 

In February, the Food and Drug Administration sent a letter to Mercola stating that he’s been illegally selling products as a way “to mitigate, prevent, treat, diagnose, or cure COVID-19 in people.” 

Mercola’s web empire has repeatedly spread lies during the coronavirus pandemic, including pushing false claims about COVID-19 vaccines. Many of those claims have proliferated on social media

Despite -- or because of -- that resume, Attkisson hosted Mercola on her March 12 podcast for Just the News to promote his upcoming book The Truth About COVID-19: Exposing The Great Reset, Lockdowns, Vaccine Passports, and the New Normal

She introduced the interview by defending Mercola, whom she referred to as “a natural health expert who bucks many traditional establishment medical trends,” and touted his work, stating: “I have an interview with a fascinating and often censored and smeared natural health doctor, Joseph Mercola, who has a new book I know you'll be interested in: The Truth About COVID-19. Not long ago, a book about COVID-19, really most any topic that you can think of, would be welcomed into the information landscape. I mean, whether people agree or disagree, such a book, such information, would be added to the body of knowledge available.” 

Attkisson’s interview highlighted his supposed expertise in medicine. They later discussed the pandemic, with Mercola characteristically forwarding misinformation about the coronavirus. During one portion, Mercola falsely claimed that the coronavirus death count has been “radically inflated” and is used for "propaganda.” 

He also pushed the conspiracy theory that the coronavirus is actually a “plandemic” and appeared to reference the Event 201 conspiracy theory as evidence. (Reflecting the unseriousness of his research, Mercola had difficulty recounting the conspiracy theory's details to Attkisson.) 

During the interview, Mercola also promoted his website for Attkisson's listeners. 

Attkisson said at the conclusion of the interview: “I hope people will check out your book.” 

Mercola’s book will be published next month but he offers an online preview which makes clear that it’s devoted to lies and conspiracy theories. He claims that his book offers “indisputable proof that this pandemic has been used as a convenient cover-up. I review the evidence that it was preplanned with the mainstream manipulation of the facts to inflate the danger posed by this infection” and “there are no excess deaths due to the virus.” 

He adds: “It appears we are witnessing the unfolding of a carefully orchestrated plan to facilitate and hide the transfer of wealth to unelected technocrats who are controlling the pandemic narrative — all while simultaneously justifying the erosion of your personal freedoms and civil liberties.” 

Always the huckster, Mercola also writes that he’ll “give you a detailed plan for the optimal diet for COVID-19, supplements to combat chronic disease and viral infections, and additional strategies so you can maintain your resistance to illness and infections of all kinds.” And if you preorder his book, you’ll get “free gifts” that include a discount to his store.