CNN’s John Avlon busts televangelists and Fox News hosts for trying to 'profit off panic' with coronavirus scams

On Wednesday, CNN fact-checker John Avlon laid into the hucksters peddling quack "cures" for coronavirus, walking through some of the most prominent scams and warning people not to be fooled.


"There are two things that do no good in a crisis: Fear and denial," said Avlon. "But there are unscrupulous folks who try to grift off those very human emotions, selling scams to profit off panic. It is a loathsome thing to do because there is no cure for the coronavirus. That hasn't stopped the usual suspects from trying to sell their snake oil to the gullible, promising science-free quick fixes."

He showed a clip of a recent scam involving silver solution being promoted to "deactivate" coronavirus.

"Now, beneath the beard, that's Jim Bakker, the OG disgraced televangelist," said Avlon. "Back in the day, he served prison time for fraud, and I guess old habits die hard. The FDA sent Bakker's company and six others cease-and-desist letters saying that they consider, quote, 'the sale and promotion of fraudulent COVID-19 products' to be a threat to public health."

"You almost might not be shocked to find 9/11 truther and Sandy Hook conspiracy theorist Alex Jones also trying to get in on the grift, peddling silver-laden toothpaste that he says will kill the coronavirus at, quote, 'point-blank range,'" said Avlon. "Now, this is a guy who Donald Trump once praised, by the way, as having an 'amazing reputation.'"

"There's a bunch of bogus coronavirus cures being pushed, in the form of teas and essential oils and even some folks on social media suggesting you drink bleach. Don't," said Avlon. "But coronavirus scams don't only come in a bottle. They also come via email, with ramped-up malware and phishing schemes attached to official-looking 'coronavirus updates' from the State Department, warning of an influx of fake social media accounts, possibly Russian, designed to foment confusion and fear."

"Now, speaking of confusion and fear, let's talk about the dangerous denial that's been spread about coronavirus on partisan media as well," continued Avlon, playing a clip of Rush Limbaugh saying, 'We're shutting down our country because of the cold virus.' "It's not a cold. And we've seen Devin Nunes of the House Intelligence Committee tell people to go to their local pub, while restaurants are being shut in major cities around the country. Fox News host consistently downplayed the dangers, from comparing coronavirus to the flu, to, of course, blaming Democrats in the media."

He played a number of Fox hosts spreading misinformation about the virus, and noted that "a number of Fox News hosts changed their tune, once the president seemed to get serious about calling this a pandemic."

"There is a cost to weeks of denial and deflection," said Avlon. "With a new poll from Marist showing a massive partisan gap between Republicans and Democrats, as well as independents, on whether the coronavirus is a real threat. This information just doesn't confuse, it can really hurt people who have been told this is all a hoax. But a scam is a scam, whether it comes from a silver-infused toothpaste tube or partisan media personalities. Be smart, do what's right and don't believe the hype. And that's your reality check."

Watch below: