Snake-oil salesman, Boerne, Texas
Snake-oil salesman, Boerne, TX (historical enactment, 2014). Photo credit: The Lyda Hill Texas Collection of Photographs in Carol M. Highsmith's America Project, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division / Wikimedia

The Daily Beast and The Daily Mail called McCullough’s company’s product line “MAGA Goop.”

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The Wellness Company (TWC) — the supplements purveyor for which soon-to-be-board-decertified, anti-vax cardiologist Dr. Peter McCullough serves as chief medical officer — has recently gotten some appropriately bad press. 

In November, The Daily Beast and The Daily Mail called TWC’s product line “MAGA Goop.” The former discussed its promotion by far-right influencers/politicians and the latter mocked TWC’s partner organization Unjected, a dating platform for unvaccinated individuals. 

But there is far more to this story, including a fake-news outlet — Vigilant News Network (VNN) — founded by Foster Coulson, the same man who’s behind TWC.

Bad Medicine 

TWC is not the only venture of the anti-vax/pro-early treatment pushers into the largely unregulated and highly lucrative supplements market, but it is the most heavily promoted one. 

They offer products like a McCullough-promoted pill containing nattokinase for vaccine spike protein detox, retailing at $65 for 120 capsules. The company is not, however, just selling nonsense supplements for conditions they’ve made up. They are also hawking medical emergency kits for $300 a pop with the familiar COVID-19 “early treatment” drugs this movement has been pushing since 2020. 

The regular medical emergency kit consists of a plethora of antibiotics and, of course, ivermectin — the anti-parasitic that has been falsely sold to MAGA World as a COVID-19 “wonder drug.” While TWC requires an intake form for “MD evaluation” with the purchase and includes a user manual, the drugs are “prescribed” in a rubber-stamp manner and without the ability to perform an appropriate physical examination. 

There is also no assistance in the diagnosis of the various conditions the kit is purported to treat, observed internist Dr. Jonathan Laxton, who explained: 

It is unclear how a lay-person is to know they are experiencing giardiasis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, tetanus, chlamydia or the other various infections for which they would normally see a medical practitioner for diagnosis and specific treatment, rendering the prescription antibiotics useless at best. There are also various other conditions, which are primarily caused by viruses, thereby promoting overuse of antibiotics by lay people and contributing to the rise in antibiotic resistance.

Beyond the concerns about antibiotic resistance posed by indiscriminate overuse, a few of the drugs in the kit, when combined, can prolong the QT interval (a portion of the EKG pattern), according to pediatric cardiologist Dr. Frank Han, and therefore pose a risk to individuals with underlying cardiac rhythm issues. Han further commented that the website makes no effort to warn customers about these interactions. 

TWC’s separate contagion emergency kit comes with the antimalarial hydroxychloroquine (HCQ), endorsed by Donald Trump as a COVID-19 cure; the ubiquitous ivermectin; a Z-pack; and budesonide plus a nebulizer. It is marketed to have on hand for the next variant, with the reassurance that these treatments are “backed by the research of experts like Dr. Peter McCullough” — which, as I will demonstrate, should not be reassuring. 

A Trail of Shoddy Publications

As previously discussed, the Trump-endorsed HCQ was disproven as a COVID-19 treatment in a major randomized control trial posting results in June 2020. 

The French scientist behind the HCQ craze that launched the COVID-19 early-treatment movement, Dr. Didier Raoult, has since had his work retracted — and took a more general fall from grace, as work of his going back decades was found to have major ethical issues

The pro-Trump group that continued pushing HCQ after it had lost its controversial emergency use authorization (EUA), America’s Frontline Doctors (AFLDS), currently has a wrongful death case against it for a February 2022 cardiac death brought on by telehealth prescription, for COVID-19 prevention, of a drug known to have cardiac side effects

Per a report by the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, McCullough was involved with Trump administration insiders in a behind-the-scenes attempt to strongarm the FDA into reauthorizing HCQ’s EUA — as was his fellow TWC Chief Medical Board member Dr. Harvey Risch, who had promoted Raoult’s HCQ work. This past October, McCullough and Raoult managed to publish a pro-HCQ paper despite the original preprint version having been removed for ethical issues

Ivermectin, promoted by MAGA Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) and The Frontline COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance (FLCCC), has also been thoroughly disproven against COVID-19. 

FLCCC co-founder Dr. Pierre Kory — another doctor soon to lose his board certification, and member, alongside McCullough and Risch, of the California-based anti-vax group The Unity Project — is perhaps the vaccine contrarian physician most recognized for substandard pandemic publications. There is the COVID-19 hospital protocol study retracted for alleged inaccurate reporting of mortality data; the ivermectin meta-analysis slapped with an expression of concern by the publishing journal’s editor; and the deeply flawed papers on a politically motivated, city-wide ivermectin experiment in Itajaí, Brazil

In addition to promoting ivermectin to the US Senate in December 2020, Kory sang the drug’s praises on Joe Rogan’s podcast in June 2021. Rogan, the controversial Spotify star who cemented his status in the right-wing media ecosystem during the pandemic, continues to push the debunked COVID-19 cure. His continued engagement with COVID-19 anti-science is then cross-promoted by TWC’s partner outlet VNN.

Currently, Kory is promoting a short documentary — from the producer of the early pandemic conspiracy film Plandemic — based on his book The War on Ivermectin, and he recently appeared on VNN’s “news” show to stoke fear of vaccines. In November, VNN’s website published an article — “How Ivermectin Became a Target for the ‘Fraud Detectives’” — that took aim at some of the more prominent voices who have called out Kory et al. and the myriad issues in the literature espousing ivermectin as a treatment for COVID-19.  

World-Renowned Disinformation Man

McCullough, who is involved with an international anti-vax network through roles in groups like Truth for Health Foundation and Pandata, has also published pro-ivermectin studies. Notably, he was a co-author on two papers with Australian gastroenterologist Dr. Thomas Borody, who promoted the drug for COVID-19 while failing to disclose he had applied for a US-based patent for the treatment. 

McCullough additionally first-authored a December 2020 pro-early treatment paper with a staggering 56 co-authors. Listed were Risch, Borody, a member of the FLCCC, and multiple members of AFLDS, including current Florida Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo. This paper was published in Reviews in Cardiovascular Medicine (RCM) while McCullough — who has taken over $2 million in non-research pharma money, dating back to at least 2013 — served as the journal’s editor-in-chief. RCM and McCullough were called out in a 2012 opinion piece in MedPage Today for an apparent failure to disclose financial conflicts of interest. 

McCullough’s latest publication appears in Cureus — the same journal, known for low-quality articles, that published the Itajaí ivermectin papers co-authored by Kory. While McCullough includes his role with TWC in his conflict-of-interest statement, he fails to address how this paper obviously serves to benefit him directly. The paper, co-authored with fellow notable anti-vaxxers, misuses non-verified data from the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS) to argue against the safety of the COVID-19 vaccines, which in turn motivates sale of TWC products. 

Following its publication, physicians, including longtime anti-anti-vax advocate Dr. David Gorski, wrote about the many issues with the paper. However this pushback is unlikely to stop the seemingly unsinkable McCullough, who took to Twitter/X in December to celebrate his being recognized as the “Top Internist and Cardiologist of the Year” by the International Association of Top Professionals (IAOTP). 

This award mill is not a medical society and an IAOTP honor appears to be one for which you can nominate yourself, per their website. The “award” comes with an electronic billboard in New York City, and photographed posing by McCullough’s side in front of his blown up face were members of TWC’s non-medical leadership, including its founder and chairman, Coulson.

New Players Enter the Disinfo Game

Miami-based Coulson, who pledged TWC would spend $150,000 per month on Twitter/X ads in the wake of the social media platform’s recent advertiser exodus, claims their company is “non-woke” and pro-medical freedom. TWC additionally sponsors conspiracy theorist (and Steve Bannon favorite) Naomi Wolf’s website DailyClout, has ads appearing on Trump’s Truth Social, and recently signed a $6 million deal with the right-wing video platform Rumble. 

In addition to his role at TWC, Coulson is a board member of Qu Biologics, a shareholder of International Health Brands (which includes TWC in its family of companies), and the founder of VNN. 

The recently announced new CEO of VNN, Chris Barron, also serves as the VP of Media Relations for TWC. Per VNN, Barron has contributed to many right-wing news outlets, including Brietbart.

Barron claims to be a “pro-Trump conservative” and therefore should know that “Operation Warp Speed,” which brought the COVID-19 vaccines to market, was carried out under the Trump administration. He perhaps needs reminding that deadly anti-vax disinformation has disproportionately impacted MAGA voters, who are the clear target of TWC’s marketing efforts. 

For those uninitiated to anti-vax Twitter/X, VNN is the offspring of the wildly popular anonymous anti-vax influencer “The Vigilant Fox,” who serves as VNN’s editor-in-chief (though remaining anonymous as a cartoon fox avatar). 

In addition to being amplified by anti-vax doctors-turned-influencers on Twitter/X, The Vigilant Fox’s posts have been shared by leading QAnon figure Ret. Gen. Mike Flynn. Media Bias/Fact Check rates VNN as “far-right biased and questionable based on the promotion of propaganda, conspiracy theories, pseudoscience, false claims, poor sourcing, and a lack of transparency.”  

Fresh Fake News

Most of VNN’s content sticks to The Vigilant Fox’s bread and butter, COVID-19 and vaccine conspiracies, but the outlet has branched out beyond the pandemic. It covers extreme takes on US politics, Canadian politics (Coulson’s home country, in which TWC has also been active), and international news, namely the wars in Ukraine and Gaza. As anyone who spends time on Twitter/X knows, the anti-vax blue checks have gone from armchair virology experts to armchair experts on international conflicts rather seamlessly. 

Much of VNN’s content is written anonymously by The Vigilant Fox but the website also republishes from other unreliable far-right sources — Gateway Pundit, ZeroHedge, Alex Jones’s InfoWars, Children’s Health Defense’s The Defender — as well as the substacks of “influencers.” The anti-vax VNN substack influencers include: 

  • Dr. Peter McCullough;
  • The FLCCC;
  • Dr. William Makis, TWC’s chief of Nuclear medicine and oncology (despite being a radiologist and having lost his medical license in Canada) who pushes conspiracies about vaccines leading to sudden deaths and turbo cancer;
  • Dr. Robert Malone, the physician who falsely claimed to be the sole inventor of mRNA vaccine technology, who appears to have had a recent falling out with the TWC/VNN crowd despite being part of The Unity Project with McCullough;
  • Steve Kirsch, the tech millionaire turned vaccine “misinformation superspreader” who wildly claims over 10 million people worldwide were killed by the COVID-19 vaccines and appears as a co-author on McCullough’s latest problematic paper.

The majority of the sponsored advertising content on the VNN website is, predictably, for TWC. 

McCullough’s pandemic and pre-pandemic behavior make his involvement in this ongoing early treatment promotion unsurprising. The most shameless doctor to arise out of the COVID-19 crisis cannot continue to profess to be fighting against pharma greed and for patients when he sells products that don’t work — and in some cases can harm — at a staggering markup. 

And no billboard “award” that was likely bought will make him an ethical or trustworthy physician. His recent video post, gaslighting his followers by claiming anyone who uses the terms “misinformation” or “anti-science” is engaged in propaganda, speaks volumes to McCullough’s desperation.

Especially considering his even more recent statement, published by VNN’s The Vigilant Fox, that everyone who “encouraged, pressured, coerced, or threatened reprisal for [not taking] one of these COVID-19 vaccines is complicit in a crime against humanity.” 

What is more surprising and deeply disheartening is how many people on the far-right have emerged still willing to partner with McCullough and cash in — preying upon the MAGA anti-vax base he’s played a central role in creating. 

There is a major conflict of interest arising from leadership at VNN also being involved in TWC. This is propaganda — with a side of grift. McCullough has a history of shady work and failure to disclose conflicts of interest — which may be right at home in lawless MAGA land, but should not have a place in medicine. 

Karam Bales is a UK-based disinformation researcher and freelance journalist who writes regularly for the Byline Times as well as his own initiative, the Counter Disinformation Project. He is a former executive for the National Education Union, Europe’s largest education trade union.


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