House Democrats are urging the Trump administration to do more to crack down on the sale of untested, bogus remedies for the coronavirus as federal authorities begin warning pushers of such products to stop or else.
The most prominent among them is InfoWars founder and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, who has urged viewers of his popular webcasts to purchase products—available on his own website—which claim to protect against the virus with no real scientific proof.
A leading member of the House Oversight Committee, Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), is encouraging the administration to pursue more aggressive action against Jones and others like him.
“We need to make an example of Alex Jones and the Alex Jones of the world who seek to profit off of the coronavirus pandemic, and this warning is a good first step,” Krishnamoorthi, who chairs the panel’s subcommittee on consumer oversight, told The Daily Beast. “But the Trump Administration has more serious tools at their disposal that they should be using to stop the sale of fraudulent COVID-19 prevention and treatment products.”
Democrats began pushing federal authorities to take stronger action on Jones, and other sellers of questionable products, earlier this month. In an April 3 letter that has not yet been made public, Krishnamoorthi wrote to the Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission to ask them to explain how they were approaching the protection of consumers from fraudulent or dangerous COVID-19 products.
The letter noted that Jones had been promoting supposed coronavirus remedies on March 10 and that while agencies were aware of his claims, they had failed to send any kind of warning to Jones.
Since then, the FDA has issued a warning to Jones and left the door open for possible legal action. On April 9, the agency sent a letter to Jones demanding he stop pitching his viewers that colloidal silver products in the InfoWars store would ward off or cure the coronavirus, claiming that his pitches “misleadingly represent them as safe and/or effective for the treatment or prevention of COVID-19.” The FDA threatened legal action if Jones didn’t comply.
There are powerful additional actions that the agency could take to crack down on Jones: under current law, for example, the Food and Drug Administration has the authority to request a recall of fraudulent products, seek financial penalties on sellers, block advertisements or request a criminal investigation.
Much of the concern about Jones’s products focused on a toothpaste, the “Super Silver Whitening Toothpaste,” that he claimed would kill diseases in the coronavirus family of viruses “at point-blank range” with “patented nanosilver.” On March 12, New York’s attorney general warned Jones to stop marketing a number of products, including the toothpaste, as coronavirus treatments.
There’s no evidence that consuming silver can cure coronavirus. Silver can, in extreme cases, turn a patient’s skin blue.
Rather than stop selling his products as coronavirus cures or preventatives after the New York attorney general letter, though, Jones just made his sales slightly more subtle. On March 21, Jones said in a broadcast that his “Real Red Pill” supplement wouldn’t treat coronavirus—but added that “when you don’t have enough of it and you’re deficient, that’s how the viruses get in.”
“It is not meant to treat or diagnose the novel coronavirus,” Jones said, before adding, “And oxygen is not meant to let humans live.”
Supplements sales are key to Jones’s conspiracy theory empire. In 2018, Jones told The New York Times in 2018 that he uses the supplements to fund his media outlet, comparing himself to “other revolutionaries” who rob banks or conduct kidnappings to fund their political efforts.