On Friday, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) sent a warning letter to televangelist Jim Bakker’s “Jim Bakker Show” for advertising a product misleadingly peddled as a coronavirus cure.
As with any disease outbreaks, COVID-19 has led to its share of hucksters; most notably, televangelist Jim Bakker telling viewers of his online show last month that they could drink Silver Solution (colloidal silver) to cure the coronavirus. Obviously, this is not allowed, and the FDA added the show to its list of firms selling fraudulent products that falsely claim to cure the new disease.
“There currently are no vaccines, pills, potions, lotions, lozenges or other prescription or over-the-counter products available to treat or cure coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19),” the FDA’s William Correll and FTC’s Richard Quaresima wrote in the letter.
Last month, Right Wing Watch tweeted a segment from an episode of Bakker’s show featuring the televangelist holding a bottle labelled “Silver Solution” while asking guest Sherrill Sellman whether it works against “this influenza that is now circling the globe,” an erroneous reference for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. Sellmen, a self-titled naturopath, responded that while it hasn’t been tested on the novel coronavirus, it has been tested on “other strains of the coronavirus and has been able to eliminate it in 12 hours.” A chyron below the screen offers four bottles of the solution for $US80 ($121).
This is false, of course. Silver, when employed responsibly in a medical setting, can indeed kill viruses. But, as a bottle of drinkable liquid, it’s a panacea peddled by quacks.
The clip violates both the FDA and FTC regulations forbidding companies from falsely claiming products cure diseases and from advertising that a product can prevent, treat, or cure a disease without reliable evidence.
As of Friday, the show had 48 hours to respond to the FDA’s notice with an explanation of steps they were taking to correct their errors and prevent such a mistake from happening again. The FDA’s website doesn’t list the show as having taken corrective actions. We reached out to representatives from the show and will update this article if they respond.
Others were happy to see the action taken. Centre for Science in the Public Interest director and president Peter Lurie praised the FDA, FTC, and the New York Attorney General’s office for acting to protect consumers.
“Quacks who market dietary supplements love nothing more than a crisis,” said Lurie in a statement emailed to Gizmodo. “For someone like Jim Bakker, a crisis is just an opportunity to market worthless pills and potions as miraculous cures. Consumers should be very glad at the speed and seriousness with which the FDA, the FTC, and the New York Attorney General’s office dealt with Jim Bakker and his silly Silver Solution.”
It’s good that the FDA and FTC are taking action, but this surely won’t be the last fake coronavirus cure they’re forced to respond to as the illness begins to spread widely in the U.S.