Dr. Pierre Kory, Ivermectin
Dr. Pierre Kory, co-founder of the Front Line Covid-19 Critical Care Alliance, testifies during the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing titled “Early Outpatient Treatment: An Essential Part of a COVID-19 Solution, Part II,” on December 8, 2020. Photo credit: © Tom Williams/Congressional Quarterly via ZUMA Press

Ivermectin has fused with MAGA politics.

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This past July, the UK-based anti-vaccine World Council for Health (WCfH) held its third annual “World Ivermectin Day,” inviting their international network to celebrate the antiparasitic drug’s efficacy against the COVID-19 virus in the face of facts.

Several familiar names in ivermectin hawking spoke at their Twitter/X spaces event, most notably Dr. Pierre Kory — a Wisconsin physician and co-founder of the pro-ivermectin Front Line COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance (FLCCC, a WCfH coalition partner organization) — who plugged his conspiratorial new book The War on Ivermectin: The Medicine that Saved Millions and Could Have Ended the Pandemic.

Kory returned to a UK audience in December as an “expert” guest on a panel for “Democracy, Truth, and Freedom” hosted by disgraced MP Andrew Bridgen, who was kicked out of the Tory party for his anti-vax extremism. 

In a room rented on the parliamentary campus, Kory and a small group of fringe US physicians who have been involved with right-wing politics spread shoddy data, blatant disinformation, and fear over vaccine safety — while congratulating each other on being the truth-tellers of the pandemic. 

Despite Kory’s bravado on the global stage, his ivermectin crusade has not fared well back home. A lawsuit against a Wisconsin hospital system, brought by the nephew of a patient who was denied ivermectin before dying of COVID-19, was shot down by the state’s Supreme Court last spring. The American Medical Association and Wisconsin Medical Society had filed an amicus brief on behalf of the hospital system being sued, noting that the plaintiff had largely relied on Kory’s “opinion testimony” and that “the studies on which his opinion is based — including his own — have been thoroughly discredited.” 

They further highlighted that:

Additional research determined that meta-analyses touting ivermectin’s effectiveness, including Dr. Kory’s, had surveyed “largely poor-quality studies.” Indeed, one of the studies on which Dr. Kory relied was “potentially fraudulent” and included duplicated data. The journal that published Dr. Kory’s survey subsequently issued an expression of concern, which questioned Dr. Kory’s conclusions about ivermectin.

Kory fell ill with the virus in the summer of 2021 despite taking his own medicine, yet continues to push it as a “wonder drug” and has sold merchandise of himself as a cartoon superhero on the FLCCC website. Over the course of the pandemic, he has become a pariah of the global evidence-based medical community and a darling of the far-Right. 

To understand how a previously respected Wisconsin critical-care doctor inexplicably ruined his reputation over an anti-parasitic — and, far more importantly, caused chaos for global public health during a crisis — we must go back to the dawn of COVID-19.

Bad MATH+: The Genesis of Pierre Kory

In May 2020, a few months after the pandemic hit the US, Kory testified remotely at a US Senate hearing as a guest of Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) about the MATH+ hospital protocol for COVID-19 that he and his team, then referring to themselves as the Front-Line Critical Care Working Group, had developed. Kory identified his team members at the time as Drs. Paul Marik, Umberto Meduri, Joseph Varon, and José Iglesias. “MATH” stood for methylprednisolone (a steroid), ascorbic acid (vitamin C), thiamine (vitamin B1), and heparin (an anticoagulant), with the “+” indicating drugs of potential interest, including ivermectin.

The team’s COVID-19 protocol was adapted from Kory’s mentor and FLCCC co-founder Marik’s controversial vitamin C for sepsis protocol, published in the journal CHEST in 2017. The efficacy of this sepsis protocol has been thoroughly disproven, despite Marik’s accusations of “statistical obfuscation” in the studies failing to uphold his positive results. Questions had even been raised about potentially fraudulent data in his study, though, as Kory’s book boasts, they took legal action against the doctor who made those accusations, pressuring him to walk them back. Regardless, the huge mortality reduction reported in Marik’s paper has not been reproducible, the gold standard of scientific validity, and one study found increased sepsis mortality with vitamin C. 

In April 2020 Marik went on former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich’s podcast to promote their MATH+ COVID-19 hospital protocol — his vitamin C for sepsis ‘HAT’ protocol plus methylprednisolone — hoping to get the attention of the White House. Marik claims he tried to interest the World Health Organization (which, at the time, was not recommending steroids for COVID-19 treatment), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the National Institutes of Health as well — but did not get a response. His team did, however, get the attention of Johnson.

In his first appearance before the Senate — for the remote “How New Information Should Drive Policy” roundtable — Kory railed against the exclusion of steroids from the existing COVID-19 hospital protocol. To his credit, he would be proven correct about steroids having a role in the fight against the virus. 

A non-FLCCC critical care doctor (who wishes to remain anonymous, given the retaliatory behaviors of certain FLCCC members and their allies) explained that the initial hesitation on steroids was prompted by early reports from China that they were not beneficial in decreasing mortality or length of stay but could increase viral shedding — and by additional concern that they may cause worse outcomes, as they can with flu. This ICU physician added that the MATH+ protocol’s stepwise increase in steroid dosage “lacked supporting data.” 

A February 2021 randomized control trial (RCT) out of Cleveland Clinic published in JAMA found vitamin C ineffective at lessening COVID-19 symptoms, with a November 2021 meta-analysis of RCTs further backing its lack of efficacy against the virus. But Marik and the FLCCC continue to promote his vitamin C for sepsis protocol and the MATH+ protocol — which has expanded to include more drugs and vitamins — on their website.  

In the spring of 2020 the FLCCC still presented itself as an organization that supported evidence-based medicine, trying to positively contribute to America’s imperfect response to COVID-19, and had been correct about both steroid and anticoagulant usefulness against the virus. They had only barely added ivermectin as an optional medication in their protocol as part of the “+” portion of MATH+ as the drug was gaining some traction in global research into the repurposing of existing medications — though these promising ivermectin studies would fail to hold up to scrutiny

During the May 2020 Senate hearing, Kory claimed they had sent their protocol to the White House multiple times. Johnson — who stressed the need for early treatment and plugged the Right’s ivermectin predecessor, hydroxychloroquine — assured Kory he had passed it on to Donald Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows. 

Ron Johnson, CPAC, 2016

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) at the 2016 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, MD. Photo credit: Gage Skidmore / Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 2.0 DEED)

Also featured at Johnson’s virtual roundtable was a physician who did get the ear of the president, Dr. Scott Atlas, who would come on as a Trump adviser in July 2020 and for whom the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis’s (HSSCC) damning report The Atlas Dogma: The Trump Administration’s Embrace of a Dangerous and Discredited Herd Immunity via Mass Infection Strategy is named. 

In late 2020, Kory et al. published their MATH+ protocol in the Journal of Intensive Care Medicine (JICM), based on two centers where it had been implemented: United Memorial Hospital in Houston (where Varon worked) and Sentara Norfolk General Hospital in Norfolk, VA (where Marik worked).

At the time of its publication there was significant pushback from the medical community to this paper. The major issue was the non-randomized control study design, which compared the death rates at their two MATH+ sites to previously published observational data to report a “more than 75% absolute risk reduction in mortality.” In November 2021, their MATH+ paper was retracted by JICM after a tip-off from Marik’s hospital about issues with the integrity of the mortality data he had put forth. The retraction notice read:

The article has been retracted after the journal received notice from Sentara Norfolk General Hospital in Norfolk, Virginia (“Sentara”) raising concerns about the accuracy of COVID-19 hospital mortality data reported in the article pertaining to Sentara.

The same day as the retraction, Marik sued Sentara hospital over their banning of ivermectin for COVID-19 — ivermectin being the antiparasitic medication that was added to the MATH+ protocol after their submission to JICM, as the group latched on to the promise of the drug and stepped into the deeply political “early treatment” movement.

Ivermectin is what the FLCCC became known for, with Kory returning to the Senate in December 2020 to testify on the efficacy of the antiparasitic — in the US principally prescribed for veterinary use as a dewormer, but a mainstay of global health where worm infections in humans are more common — against COVID-19. In so doing, he became the face of the ivermectin movement in the US and inspired anti-vax cranks worldwide — including prominent proponent Joe Rogan, on whose Spotify podcast he would appear in June 2021. 

That same summer, former FLCCC member Dr. Eric Osgood left the organization in a “panic” as they failed to incorporate the newly available life-saving vaccines into their protocols, claiming “he had his ‘oh shit’ moment, registering the effect the group was having on social media and the way its message was being received.” 

Ivermectin: The New Hydroxychloroquine

Kory’s FLCCC would not stop with just COVID-19. It moved on to promoting ivermectin for long-COVID, RSV, and the flu

In the summer of 2023, Kory latched on to anti-vaxxer Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s presidential campaign, appearing at his health policy round table alongside a number of well-known cranks. Kennedy — who continues to say that ivermectin is the wonder drug Kory claimed — has tweeted that Kory is “honest, brave, and sincere,” which is, given what we’ve learned of Kennedy’s own nature, something of a red flag. Kory’s organization, registered as a 501c3 and part of a network of Kennedy-aligned anti-vax nonprofits, was revealed to have received massive amounts of right-wing money, including on the sly through donor advised funds, as reported in Rolling Stone and Wisconsin Watch.

Prior to ivermectin, right-wing politicians in the US had tried pushing hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) for COVID-19. America’s Frontline Doctors (AFLDS) — created in a partnership with the Trump reelection campaign — burst onto the scene with a July 2020 press conference, “The White Coat Summit” in front of the Supreme Court, pushing their “cure.” Their stunt was live-streamed by Breitbart and tweeted about by Trump, who had been promoting HCQ since March 2020 — in the face of strong pushback from the medical and scientific communities. Fronted by future insurrectionist Dr. Simone Gold, the rogue pro-Trump physicians also decried lockdowns and masks. The politicization of COVID-19, vaccination, and public health generally — a pressing goal of the far-Right — had been achieved.

At the time, the FLCCC publicly distanced itself from AFLDS by tweeting:

The physicians and associates of the Frontline Covid19 Critical Care Alliance (FLCCC) are neither affiliated nor aligned in any way with the group calling itself “America’s Frontline Doctors” that demonstrated outside the U.S. Supreme Court on July 28th. In fact, the FLCCC strongly rejects the entirety of group’s [sic] claims — including that there is a cure for COVID-19 and that there is no need to wear masks. (Emphasis added.)

However, Kory would go on to collaborate with members of the AFLDS openly, participating alongside AFLDS member Dr. Ryan Cole on Johnson’s anti-vax panels, and applaud Gold, whose AFLDS would hawk ivermectin as well as HCQ, as a “tireless medical freedom fighter” in his book. This praise comes despite her involvement in the attempt to overthrow democracy, her ongoing involvement with MAGA extremists, and an AFLDS member’s disturbing stalking and ambushing of the president of the California Medical Board for one of their propaganda films

Prior to endorsing ivermectin, Kory contributed to the political early treatment movement as a co-author on an August 2020 preprint paper pushing back against the results of the major RCT that found no use for HCQ against COVID-19 earlier that summer. He would also appear on another pro-HCQ preprint posted in December 2020 — the same month he promoted ivermectin to the US Senate.

The exact timeline of when ivermectin became the new HCQ is difficult to parse out. There was a fair amount of overlap, as the Right’s fight for HCQ continued even as its star was fast fading and ivermectin’s rising — with the whole thing playing out in the overheated arena of a fierce battle for the White House. 

Despite the theatrics of AFLDS, the FDA had already rescinded its emergency use authorization for HCQ the month before their “summit.” This left conservative politicians — like Johnson, who had written to Trump urging action on HCQ in April 2020 — scrambling. 

A report from the HSSCC detailed Johnson and his allies’ attempt to strongarm the FDA into re-authorizing HCQ throughout the summer of 2020. However, in an August 2020 email included in the same HSSCC report, Johnson confessed that outside Trump and a few insiders, the administration didn’t “want to touch HCQ with a 100’ pole,” and acknowledged “the moral aspect — the lives lost” by their continuing to push for the drug that did not work against the virus. 

Ron Johnson, COVID, email

Photo credit: US HousePDF

Johnson would further harry the FDA in two separate hearings later that year. In November, Johnson hosted a panel to argue support for “early treatment,” featuring a slew of personal anecdotes and deeply flawed studies from across the globe. In particular, Dr. Harvey Risch argued in favor of HCQ, citing unpublished research from the Brazilian hospital system Prevent Senior with a WordPress link in his official submitted testimony. 

Risch and Johnson’s American pro-HCQ colleagues’ involvement with politically aligned research out of Brazil is further discussed in the aforementioned HSSCC report. HCQ research conducted at Prevent Senior was politically motivated and carried out unethically, “manipulating medical records and data from scientific experimentation, which was conducted without obtaining the participants’ informed consent.” 

Poor quality research out of South America would prove central to the ivermectin movement as well. And Risch would write in support of Marik in his legal filing against Sentara and serve on leadership of the anti-vax group The Unity Project alongside Kory.

Johnson’s December hearing would provide more of the same anecdotal statements, questionable studies, and anti-lockdown fear-mongering — and a star-making turn for Kory, who passionately claimed, “Ivermectin is effectively a miracle drug against COVID-19.”

By October 2020, ivermectin had been upgraded from “an optional component to an essential component” of the FLCCC’s MATH+ protocol. In his book, Kory speaks of finding researcher Juan Chamie’s graphs of a supposedly successful ivermectin distribution program in Peru and “trembling” in awe as he studied them in the fall of 2020. He highlighted Chamie’s role as an FLCCC analyst in his December 2020 testimony and featured his graphs, which had quickly made their way through social media in late 2020. They were picked up by Fox News’s Laura Ingraham — who had previously pushed HCQ on Fox and to Trump directly in Spring 2020 — on Twitter just five days prior to the hearing.

Peru would have the highest COVID-19 death rate in the world in 2021. And Chamie would appear as a co-author on controversial ivermectin research out of Brazil alongside Kory. 

It was around the time of this second Senate appearance that the FLCCC conspicuously departed from any faux support for mainstream thought and professional consensus. This also coincides with their being brought on board by the international pandemic disinformation network that AFLDS was already tapped into, a hub of which was the UK-based Health Advisory & Recovery Team (HART).

The secretive HART group suffered a leak of their internal messaging system, which revealed their coordination with right-wing government and media and their manipulation of social media. Included in the leaked messages was a January 2021 email from the interim executive director of the FLCCC, Sean Burke, to a Polish self-identified AFLDS affiliate, Artur Bartosik, copied into the chat log. The message alerted the network to the emergence of Kory, Marik, and their group — and brought their ivermectin regimen to the existing global early-treatment platform previously occupied by HCQ.

Artur Bartosik Chat

Photo credit: GitHub chat room screenshot.

Screenshots, chatrooms

Photo credit: GitHub chat room screenshots.

Dr. Tess Lawrie — formerly listed as a HART member — who runs the British Ivermectin Recommendation Development group, claims on the BIRD website that it was inspired by Kory’s December 2020 Senate testimony. She is also a member of The Unity Project with Kory; and her ivermectin meta-analysis, published in the same journal as Kory’s, was also slapped with an expression of concern. Her other group, WCfH, would go on to platform the FLCCC as well as their Brazilian ivermectin-pushing counterpart, Médicos Pela Vida (Doctors for Life), which has its own deep online network and ties to Brazil’s right wing.

The FLCCC in Brazil

In addition to his work promoting ivermectin in the US, Kory was involved with publications based on research into the drug in Brazil. Like Trump, Brazil’s then-President Jair Bolsonaro was keen on downplaying the threat of the virus, which he referred to as “a little flu.” Kory is on two problematic papers (published by the known “predatory” journal Cureus) focused on the Brazilian town of Itajaí, which were highly cited by the global ivermectin movement. Kory’s involvement with work of Bolsonaro allies — such as the mayor of Itajaí who allowed the town to become a regional ‘laboratory’ in 2020 — is indicative of his reliance on far-right politics to bolster his “wonder drug” claims.

The studies are first-authored by Dr. Lucy Kerr of Médicos Pela Vida (MPV), which, like the FLCCC, is listed as a coalition partner of the WCfH. Also on the papers is Brazilian Dr. Flavio Cadegiani — added as an FLCCC clinical advisor in August 2021 — who promoted their Itajaí ivermectin research in a WCfH video alongside Kerr in April 2022.

At the time of the project, the mayor of Itajaí called Kerr a “pioneer in the fight for ivermectin,” while a pulmonary specialist at Hospital das Clínicas at the University of São Paulo Medical School cautioned, “There is a political narrative and a disinformation strategy in place to minimize the pandemic and make people think there’s an easy solution.”

One of the Kerr papers was corrected in March 2022 to reflect undisclosed financial conflicts of interest, including Kory’s position with the FLCCC and Kerr and Cadegiani’s payments from ivermectin manufacturer Vitamedic. A representative for Vitamedic admitted that between 2019 and 2020 they experienced a “600 percent increase in [sales of] ivermectin.” The company, along with Kerr’s MPV, was condemned in May of last year by the Brazilian Federal Court in the Rio Grande do Sul estate for “collective moral and health damages” resulting from their promotion of this false cure.

Furthermore, Cadegiani was involved in deeply troubling research performed in the Amazonas region into androgen receptor antagonist proxalutamide for COVID-19 — another “cure” touted, in addition to ivermectin and HCQ, by Bolsonaro — which registered 200 deaths. The Brazilian doctor performed his work without proper registration in that part of the country and with some study participants reportedly not knowing they were being experimented on. Research regulators have called his work the worst violations of human rights and medical ethics in the country’s history.

Despite accusations of “crimes against humanity” against him, the FLCCC and MPV proudly announced that the Regional Council of Medicine of the Amazonas estate had dropped all charges against Cadegiani last spring following an investigation — accountability for the powerful in Brazil being rare under both Bolsonaro and the right-wing regional institutions that survived his fall from power — with Kerr’s organization going so far as to call Cadegiani “Brazil’s greatest living scientist.” 

Following a retraction of a proxalutamide-for-COVID-19 paper of his in Frontiers in Medicine, Cadegiani took to Twitter to attack the journal as “corrupt” and accuse them, without evidence, of accepting bribes. This proxalutamide paper, retracted in June 2022, is cited in the FLCCC’s most recent “MATH+” protocol published in February of last year as well as their latest “I-CARE Early Covid Treatment” protocol published in December.

In addition to raising concerns about the political and financial conflict of interest issues with the Itajaí study, outside researchers have also questioned the methods and findings of the Cureus papers. A small team of independent researchers have re-analyzed the Kerr studies in a preprint paper currently pending peer-reviewed publication, which claims the reported benefits of ivermectin in reducing “infection, hospitalization, and mortality are entirely explained by statistical artifacts.” An author of this reanalysis paper has publicly called for the two Cureus papers to be retracted. While the reanalysis does not explain the motive for the statistical issues, the payments from Vitamedic and the political allegiances of the authors seem to answer that question. 

This was not the end of Kory’s involvement with Brazil, however. Kory, despite having no pediatric training, has recently been advocating against pediatric COVID-19 vaccine mandates in the country, as reported by Children’s Health Defense’s blog “The Defender.” Ahead of testifying remotely this February, Kory posted on Twitter/X, claiming he would “drop some truth bombs.”

The same day, Kory spoke in person at the International Crisis Summit in Washington, DC, hosted by CPAC and Johnson, continuing to promote ivermectin for COVID-19. A few days later, the seventh major study to show the inefficacy of ivermectin for COVID-19 released its results — results Kory called “fraudulent.” 

Is There Accountability in America?

Lack of accountability for Cadegiani in Brazil is unsurprising, as several charges against Bolsonaro were also shelved in 2022 by a politically aligned prosecutor after the country’s senate recommended the ex-president be charged with “crimes against humanity” and “charlatanism” for his promotion of false COVID-19 treatments such as HCQ and ivermectin.

There’s similarly been no accountability for the US politicians who promoted some of the same snake oils as did Bolsonaro and argued against vaccination, to disastrous ends. Johnson — who hosted Kory, Risch, Cole, and The Unity Project star members McCullough and Dr. Robert Malone at his anti-vax “Second Opinion Panel” in January 2022 during the deadly omicron wave — narrowly eked out a victory for a third term in the November 2022 midterm elections. 

Despite his early pandemic failures, a failed coup, and mounting criminal charges, Trump is the GOP nominee for the 2024 election. And then there is Kennedy, whose current presidential campaign would not have been possible without the anti-science antagonism of the MAGAs throughout during the pandemic. 

Additionally, there’s been a lack of medical licensing accountability for physicians involved in this deeply politically aligned early-treatment movement in the US, whom individuals like Cadegiani — recipient of an award for “research excellence” at the FLCCC’s recent conference, and, like Kory, given the superhero treatment in the FLCCC’s merchandise store — cling to for ongoing support. An investigation by The Washington Post, published last July, details the stagnation of the American state medical boards’ actions against doctors who have spread deadly COVID-19 misinformation. 

Highlighted in the report is the fact that AFLDS currently is facing an HCQ wrongful death lawsuit in Nevada and that a Wisconsin physician — following the FLCCC guidelines — remotely prescribed ivermectin for a COVID-positive patient who died four days later of a “probable COVID-19 infection.” This past month, after a year-long effort, Dr. Ryan Cole, a pathologist, had his Washington state medical license restricted owing to his telehealth prescription of ivermectin, among other violations. The initial January 2023 letter he received from the Washington Medical Commission highlighted that some patients sought him out to get on FLCCC protocols.  

Last August, following the Post’s investigation, Kory and Marik announced that the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) had alerted them that their board certifications were to be revoked for their spread of “false or inaccurate medical information.” Johnson, naturally, leapt to their support, referring to the ABIM as part of the “COVID cartel” on Twitter/X, while Kory took to his substack to rail against the certification organization and medical journals.

While Marik claims he willingly gave up his medical license, Kory — who charges $2,350 for a series of telehealth appointments in his Leading Edge clinic, claiming to specialize in long-COVID and vaccine injuries — has somehow not lost his. Seemingly for insurance against a potential future loss of licensure, Kory has set up a practice with the Crow Indian tribe that does not fall under the jurisdiction of state medical boards. 

In September 2022, just ahead of Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom signing a COVID-19 misinformation physician licensing accountability bill into law, Kory and Johnson co-authored an opinion piece for Fox News, calling the legislation “insane” and arguing “doctors could lose their licenses simply for expressing an opinion” — which is putting what they’ve done rather lightly.

Kory is now the leading name on a lawsuit — also featuring his new political ally RFK Jr. and Children’s Health Defense — against the California Medical Board and California attorney general over infringement of physician free speech, conflating free speech and professional speech and covering for themselves.

Last summer, Kory’s first far-right ally Johnson made headlines for falsely claiming the pandemic was pre-planned by unnamed elites and that the FDA had finally, quietly approved ivermectin for COVID-19. Ignoring the conspiratorial nonsense of the former comment, the latter untrue statement ties back to a lawsuit filed against the FDA by Marik. The FLCCC co-founder and two other physicians, sued the FDA/HHS in June 2022 over the agencies’ warning against using ivermectin for COVID-19, claiming this interfered with the physicians’ practice of medicine. AFLDS filed an amicus brief in this case on behalf of the plaintiffs.

The suit was dismissed in December 2022 but the physicians have controversially revived their case with the right-wing-friendly Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, leading a representative from the FDA to correctly state they cannot stop a physician from prescribing any drug off-label — including ivermectin — in the appellate court. This was not an endorsement of ivermectin for COVID-19, but Johnson and other members of the right ran with it to the press and social media, as it served to uphold the early-treatment mirage just a bit longer.

Kory — whose tweets were included in a JAMA study on physician-propagated COVID-19 disinformation online — has done plenty on the internet to shamelessly keep this act going. In his increasing desperation, he has pushed wild conspiracies about the vaccines on his substack and Twitter/X. These include the notion that massive numbers of people have died from the vaccine, as promoted by the conspiracy film Died Suddenly, and the physiological impossibility that the mRNA vaccinated can “shed” particles to make the unvaccinated sick from “spike disease.” 

Kory’s insistence to his large following that those pushing vaccines are evil and have knowingly done harm — and his targeting of specific individuals, like MAGA boogeyman Dr. Anthony Fauci and vaccine expert Dr. Peter Hotez — are beyond unethical and dangerous given how extreme the anti-vax movement has become. To save himself and keep his act afloat, Kory is putting the safety of science-based, ethically practicing health care workers — a group to which he once belonged — at risk.

In his transition to a Kennedy-grade anti-vaxxer, he has come out against all vaccines — unfortunately not limited to nonsense ramblings online. Back home, Kory testified against adding the meningitis vaccine to the Wisconsin pediatric vaccine schedule, and that addition was successfully blocked by the state’s GOP last year, putting kids at risk from a deadly disease. 

In December, Kory — who is now pushing a short film adaptation of The War on Ivermectinappeared on Ingraham’s Fox News show as well as less mainstream conspiracy-peddling outlets to suggest the vaccines — not COVID-19 — are responsible for an increased death rate in working-age people in the US. This vaccine hysteria Kory helped stoke has led to preventable COVID-19 deaths and the current rise in measles cases driven by vaccine hesitancy.

To err is human. To intentionally deceive, for the benefit of oneself at the expense of human life to the extent that Kory has, is villainous. His true superpower appears to be evading accountability for it. A recent poll from the University of Pennsylvania showed that, in addition to waning vaccine confidence nationally, 26 percent of Americans believe ivermectin is a useful treatment for COVID-19. One has to wonder whether they would feel the same way if they knew the truth of the man behind the myth of the wonder drug.

How Do You Solve a Problem Like Pierre Kory?

To be clear, the FDA’s messaging against ivermectin for COVID-19 — the now-infamous “You are not a horse” tweet — was problematic, but not for the reason Marik claims. By mocking those taking the anti-parasitic promoted by Kory in the US Senate in this way — and so reducing a complex, well-funded international effort against public health to a punchline — the FDA only further alienated those who believed him. It plays perfectly into the narrative the far-Right uses of “elites” looking down on their followers.

And why shouldn’t they have believed what Johnson’s guest had to say? In such times of crisis, citizens should ideally be able to look to their elected leaders for guidance. In times of a health crisis, they should be able to trust doctors who have sworn an oath to protect and do no harm. They shouldn’t have to contend with unethical politicians comfortable using a pandemic as a power grab, doctors willing to play along, and medical boards unwilling to rein in their own for fear of political backlash.

These have been abnormal times, beyond the pandemic which hit the US under the Trump administration. Trump laid the groundwork for MAGA’s disdain for “mainstream” doctors like Fauci who spoke out against the president’s insistence that HCQ could solve the pandemic ahead of his reelection attempt. And, in the process, Trump elevated a fringe group of cranks and hucksters to national and global prominence.

Ivermectin, a continuation of Trump’s HCQ Big Lie, was spearheaded by MAGA loyalist, and agent of Trump’s Election Big Lie, Johnson. Had it not been for the desperation of the far-Right, Kory may very well have remained a respected physician in the critical care world and an otherwise globally unknown name. 

Now ivermectin has fused with MAGA politics — as witnessed by advertisements for ivermectin-containing kits overlaid on coverage of a recent Trump rally, and Donald Trump Jr. hawking those same kits on his podcast.

Kory, having turned his back on medicine and reason, has morphed into a political bad actor and propagandist. The audience he has targeted to radicalize against “The Establishment,” although they have contributed mightily to America’s political ruination, should not be viewed as villainous. They are victims of an elaborate disinformation campaign egged on by unscrupulous politicians and further fueled by an infusion of dark money. This COVID-19 disinformation network has disproportionately harmed GOP voters. 

If there is any hope of bringing those held captive by this arm of MAGA conspiracy-mongers back to the reality fold and beginning to heal the great societal divide pandemic politics have so exacerbated, there must be more thoughtful outreach across the aisle and a focus on the MAGA-targeted demographic in the “Middle America” Kory and Johnson call home. 

This will require both those conned by the Kory types and those who resent those who have been conned to understand the depths and danger of this deadly anti-truth movement. It will also require both sides to call for accountability for doctors like Kory, politicians like Johnson, and medical institutions that stayed all too silent even as they were ferociously attacked. 

While the GOP-led House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic — which appears to be following guidelines laid out for them by the Heritage Foundation, shot callers of the far-Right — is unlikely to engage in a needed investigation into this matter, pressure can and should be put on Democrats, reasonable Republicans, and the non-GOP-controlled media to do so. 

After years of lies about miracle cures — and data as well as “lives lost” that show their failure — it is high time the ugly truth comes out about the doctors and politicians who formed an unholy alliance against global public health. 

They must be brought to answer for the massive damage they have caused — both domestically and internationally — in derailing the pandemic response with their pushing of snake oil and campaigning against the vaccines. 

This group is deeply aligned with far-Right politics and they will abuse social media, right-wing press, and the courts to obfuscate the reality of their malfeasance and bury the consequences their actions have had on the public.

Ivermectin is not and never was a wonder drug for COVID-19, no matter what Kory and his coterie continue to say. In 2024 the drug’s promotion is a barometer for doctors, politicians, and members of the media. It goes a long way to answering the questions: Who can be trusted? Who respects science, public health, and truth — and who does not? Accountability, which Kory is so actively fighting, is the antidote for the plague of disinformation that has been destructively mounted on the back of the pandemic, with the aid of doctors who have broken bad. 

In his quest for a public health miracle and personal heroism, Kory latched onto a false cure. Worse, he has refused to let go in the face of reality and the destruction he’s caused. Lacking the humility to admit he was wrong, Kory has become a case study for the corrupting potential of hubris and proximity to power — far from the hero image he hawks.

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