Alex Jones, the conspiracy theorist and rightwing radio pundit, was issued a cease-and-desist order for allegedly peddling a toothpaste that falsely promised to cure the coronavirus known as COVID-19.
Jones, who claimed a wide variety of health products for sale on his “InfoWars” website — including toothpaste, creams, and dietary supplements — were a “stopgate” against the coronavirus, is accused of misleading consumers, according to a lawsuit filed last week by New York State’s attorney general.
The 46-year-old fraudulently claimed on-air that the U.S. government stated his Superblue Toothpaste, which sells for $14.95 online, “kills the whole SARS-corona family at point-blank range,” prosecutors said. There are currently no vaccines or drugs approved to treat or prevent COVID-19.
“As the coronavirus continues to pose serious risks to public health, Alex Jones has spewed outright lies and has profited off of New Yorkers’ anxieties,” Attorney General Letitia James wrote in a statement on Thursday.
“Mr. Jones’ public platform has not only given him a microphone to shout inflammatory rhetoric, but his latest mistruths are incredibly dangerous and pose a serious threat to the public health of New Yorkers and individuals across the nation.”
“This product is only intended for use in cleaning or whitening the appearance of teeth,” a bolded disclaimer of beneath Superblue Toothpaste’s product description now states. “The products sold on this site are not intended for use in the cure, treatment, prevention, or mitigation of any disease, including the novel coronavirus. Any suggestion to the contrary is false and expressly disavowed.”
Jones didn’t respond to Oxygen.com’s request for comment on Monday regarding the cease-and-desist order.
However, since the lawsuit was filed, Jones' show parroted a similar claim, directing the conspiracy host’s audience to InfoWarsStore.com to stock up on products that could supposedly fend off COVID-19.
“[They] will boost your health, boost your immune system, give you a chance to not get the regular the flu, not get the cold, definitely not get coronavirus just by having a healthy immune system,” contributor Tom Pappert said during an episode of The Alex Jones Show on March 15.
A spokesperson for New York’s attorney general confirmed their office was also now investigating the additional claims made on Jones’ show.
Jones, however, isn’t the only alleged huckster aiming to line his pockets during the national emergency.
While Americans hunker down to combat the growing pandemic, misinformation surrounding the virus has triggered a burgeoning market for opportunistic profiteers willing to prey on panic-stricken families and frazzled hypochondriacs.
“It’s the sort of profiteering that always happens in times of crisis,” Helen Kapstein, a mass hysteria expert, told Oxygen.com. “People are trying to capitalize on the population’s anxiety and fear."
From price-gouging Amazon sellers hawking $400 bottles of hand sanitizer, to televangelists vending naturopathic coronavirus cures, online marketplaces, social media platforms, prosecutors, and police agencies across the country are now struggling to crack down on merchants trying to scrape a buck amidst the viral outbreak.
Disgraced evangelist and convicted fraudster, Jim Bakker, was also served cease-and-desist orders in New York and Missouri related to the alleged advertising and sale of fake coronavirus cures. During a Feb. 12 recording of his daily television show, the Christian TV personality, who was found guilty of 24 counts of fraud in the 1980s, appeared to endorse a line of medicinal supplements that dishonestly claimed to eradicate COVID-19.
“Let’s say it hasn’t been tested on this strain of the coronavirus, but it’s been tested on other strains of the coronavirus and has been able to eliminate it within 12 hours,” Dr. Sherrill Sellman, a naturopathic physician, told Bakker on-air last month.
The naturopath was specifically referring to a line of colloidal silver supplements available on Bakker’s website. Such health products, which sometimes contain actual metallic particles, have previously been ruled dangerous and ineffective, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
“Anyone who has bought “Silver Solution” from the Jim Bakker Show should know that it cannot cure or treat coronavirus,” MisAttorney General Eric Schmitt’s office wrote in a statement.
The Trump administration has also classified such fraudulent products a public health “threat.”
Federal authorities took action and issued warning letters to seven companies — including the Jim Bakker Show — for “preying” on consumers and selling essential oils, tinctures, teas, and colloidal silver supplements that misleadingly claimed to prevent, treat, or cure COVID-19.
A surveillance program designed to scan the internet for fraudulent products related to the cure or prevention of coronavirus has also led to the removal of three dozen postings of at least 19 products, according to The New York Times.
As public officials frantically scramble to implement testing procedures, which have thus far largely been lacking, counterfeit COVID-19 testing kits also appear to be hitting the market.
Last week, U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents seized a number of phony testing kits at Los Angeles International Airport. A parcel containing dozens of vials labeled, “Corona Virus 2019nconv (COVID-19)” and “Virus1 Test Kit” was confiscated. Officials, who said the package had a declared value of around $200, called the bust a “significant interception.”
However, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement were unable to immediately confirm if any arrests were made in connection to the seizure.
Experts and government officials alike are gravely concerned such sham products claiming to cure or test for COVID-19 could further exacerbate the health crisis by delaying or preventing appropriate medical treatment, aiding the virus’ rapid spread.
“They are peddling junk that, even if it does not directly harm persons, it causes harm in the sense that people are not able to test effectively, and are not cured by these products, and thus, they are exposed to real harm — despite thinking they are protecting against it or able to detect it,” Jonathan Jacobs, the director of the Institute of Criminal Justice Ethics at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, told Oxygen.com.
Manufacturing or selling fake COVID-19 test kits, treatments, or cures could lead to criminal charges in certain cases, the legal analyst said.
Jones, the “InfoWars” pundit, has 10 days to comply with the cease-and-desist order regarding his phony virus-fighting toothpaste and other naturopathic products that claim to eliminate COVID-19. He could be charged $5,000 for each violation of New York State’s consumer protection statutes if he doesn’t abide.
The 46-year-old, who has cultivated a career of spinning misinformation, has also built an obscure but sizable, and fiercely loyal audience, largely consisting of alt-right skeptics, gun-toting survivalists, and conspiracy theorists, who experts said could now be vulnerable to exposure.
“There are significant numbers of persons who trust Alex Jones despite the fact [he’s] not regarded as [a] reliable source by millions of others — and those trusting people are putting themselves at risk," Jacobs said. "Maybe such persons can be accused of carelessness for trusting people who have no health care expertise but they certainly do not deserve to be misled.”
Jones has peddled claims in the past that the mass school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary was a hoax staged by “crisis actors.” In 2019, he was ordered to pay $100,000 to victims’ families following a defamation suit. He blamed the inflammatory statements on a “form of psychosis” in a court deposition.
Only last week, the far-right radio host was arrested for drunk driving in Austin, Texas. Jones, who told police he had imbibed a small amount of “sake wine” over a sushi dinner with his wife, allegedly got behind the wheel to escape his spouse after they argued, according to an arrest affidavit obtained by Oxygen.com.
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