Press Releases “They” Don’t Want You to Know About: Trudeau Gets a Smackdown

Thanks to the SkepTick for both the above headline and the link to this FTC Press Release I can’t believe I missed. In case you don’t feel like clicking the link, the release’s headline says it all:

Kevin Trudeau Banned from Infomercials For Three Years, Ordered to Pay More Than $5 Million for False Claims About Weight-Loss Book

Ha ha ha hahaaaaaaaaaaa!

Ahem, okay, sorry. Heh. I’m composed now.

I love, love, love seeing charlatans busted in such a well-deserved fashion. Though I’m a staunch defender of free speech and cases like this brush uncomfortably close to belief that the First Amendment should be protected at all costs, it is clear that Trudeau flagrantly violated the law by continually lying out his ass, misrepresenting his products, and scamming consumers.

Of course, as sweet as the punishment is, it doesn’t quite fit the crime. In this case, that would mean Trudeau would be force-fed until he became morbidly obese, then injected with Human Growth Hormone and given daily colonics. That’s at least nicer than the punishment that would be required for his previous run-in with the law in which he promised to give cancer victims the cure they desperately hoped for. Presumably, that punishment would involve giving him cancer and then not allowing any treatment but coral calcium.

I’m not big on the death penalty, so I think I prefer the fat punishment.

Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at Skepchick.org and appears on the weekly Skeptics' Guide to the Universe podcast. She travels around the world delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism, and skepticism. There is currently an asteroid orbiting the sun with her name on it. You can follow her every fascinating move on Twitter or on Google+.

65 Comments

  1. We need laws like this in the US. Scammers don’t get punished here unless they actually kill someone and even then only sometimes. Thanks again, Orrin Hatch.

  2. Waitaminute, his book was called “The Weight Loss Cure ‘They’ Don’t Want You to Know About”? Seriously? “Weight Loss Cure”?

  3. Excuse me, where are today’s quickies?

    Rebecca Watson, I am holding you personally accountable for this egregious transgression.

    Nevermind that it’s not even your responsibility.

  4. Please correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe we *do* have laws like this in the US. This example shows those existing laws being enforced. And that’s the problem — enforcement, not existence of the rules in the first place.

    Rebecca: I sympathize with your First Amendment concerns, but I see truth in advertising laws, particularly in cases where health and medicine are concerned, to be somewhat analogous to yelling “Fire!” in a crowded theater. You’re not expressing yourself and your point of view. You’re not contributing to the marketplace of ideas. You’re harming someone else, and you just happen to be using your vocal cords to do it. Robbery and assault are illegal, whether or not speech technically occurs during the commission of the act. That kind of speech isn’t what the First Amendment refers to, at least in my interpretation.

  5. So…..happy….can’t….speak….at normal…..rate…

  6. Excellent news! I would also like to propose castration for any man involved in the making or promotion of Enzyte. You know, those “natural” male enhancement pills with the profoundly irritating commercials. Seriously, their President was found guilty on 90 charges of conspiracy and fraud… how is this company still in business?

  7. Aren’t the words “Weight Loss Cure” an oxymoron? Isn’t the cure for weight loss, weight gain?

  8. While this is good news it seems a bit like Al Capone being put in prison for tax evasion. Trudeau has likely caused suffering and death by leading cancer patients away from effective and science based medicine. Much worse than another quack weight loss scam. But great news none the less. Perhaps CostCo will stop selling his books now.

  9. But Rebecca…that was such a naturally leaner and more svelte ass that he was lying out of.

  10. This is SO cool,

    I can’t believe I missed that either.

    My GF thought that this guy might really be on to something and I’ve been slowly (like the creeping of winter) mentioning that Doctors would love for you to know about all this, if it was really true and really worked, at all (let alone T’s impossible sounding claims).

    She’s almost come completely around but she’s still not absolutely, positively sure that there may not something to it.

    I can’t wait to send her the link. Tee-hee…

    Thanks,

    rod

    PS: Yes, I am a jerk.

  11. While this is good news, it hurts a bit to read that you would punish Trudeau with fatness. Fat is not a disease, it’s not deadly, overeating does not cause morbid obesity (your genes mostly do), and so fat should not be treated with contempt or persecution.

    It saddens me that while being skeptical of diet schemes, you must engage in the same othering that these schemes promote. So while you are not gaining monetary profit from fear-mongering and persecution, you are making it easier for people like Trudeau to profit instead.

  12. This is good news but the sad thing is, he will spin it to “prove” that “they” are out to silence him because of his “unorthodox” ideas – and, like all charlatans, many will have even more “faith” in him. ::::shrugs::::

    Still, it will be nice not seeing him pollute the airwaves for 3 years.

  13. @Nine: I’m afraid that overeating and growing drastically overweight is in fact very bad for your health. Links to Junkfood Science won’t work so well here – she has so many anti-scientific and just plain baffling views I had to give up on reading that site.

    I maintain that if you were to force feed someone, you could cause them to grow morbidly obese. If you reread, you’ll see that’s what I wrote – not that we’d just make him overeat.

  14. This is great. I didn’t read the article deeply. Does he also have to pay refunds to all of the people he scammed?

  15. I don’t know what to say, other than “suck it, Kevin.”

    Finally our infomercial space is freed from the Trudeau Tyranny and can return to its original purpose: providing money to Billy Mays.

  16. @Nine: I’m working my way through your references, but I just wanted to be clear on your comment.

    Are you saying that

    (eat less)+(exercise more)=(weight loss)

    is not valid?

  17. I wonder when this goes into effect?

    It seems like just last night (okay, it WAS last night) that I was being Mr. Insomnia and stumbled upon Trudeau flapping his maw about nonsense again…

    This time he was hocking his newest book which was — HILARIOUSLY — about debt and how banks and financial institutions are trying to cheat you out of your hard earned cash.

    It was beyond ironic: he was going on about how the banks pretend to be your friend, but they want nothing better than to get all of your cash, but BUY MY OVERPRICED BOOK AND U’LL BE BETTER OFF!!!1!

    Is this order already in effect? Perhaps this is more of his “contemptuous violation of court orders?”

    How does this slime sleep at night?

  18. I think I may be missing something here, if I am please point it out.
    I read the article and something that caught my attention is what exactly he is in trouble for. He isn’t in trouble for publishing blatantly false claims. He’s in trouble because he makes claims on the infomercial about his crap book which is insistent with the books contents.
    Example: he says that you can eat anything you want on the infomercial but then in the book it says you can’t eat fast food.
    So to me it seems that he isn’t in trouble because he’s making stuff up and putting it in a book, he’s in trouble for being inconsistent with his nonsense.
    A victory is a victory, I guess, but something tells me Kevin Trudeau will be rearing his ugly head with his new BS claim three years from now.

  19. Rebecca,

    Perhaps I will try to find other sources that talk about the same study she does then. (I admit that I do not regularly read what she has written, so I have not come across anything to oppose yet; I’ll keep an eye out from now on though.) The other two links, however, tend to link to news stories that highlight various studies.

    However, this does not the change the fact that you are equating fat with bad. It’s not fair or accurate to judge people based on their appearances. That’s really the main goal of my original comment. Regardless of where fat comes from, fat people are still human and deserve to be treated with as much respect as a thin person. As a fat person, I did not feel very respected when reading your post.

    Durnett,

    You’re correct, it is not valid most of the time. When it comes to human bodies, I think we can all agree that there are exceptions. In general, though, fat people are genetically meant to be fat and thin people are genetically meant to be thin, and everywhere in between. Because fat people don’t tend to eat any more than thin people (there are links to these studies somewhere in those blogs), eating less necessarily means deprivation in some way. If your body needs 2000 calories, then giving it less means you are starving your body, which leads to cravings, which means you would probably end up gaining more weight than you are trying to lose in the process. This is not to mention the fact (also linked to in those blogs, I do believe) that your metabolism adjusts itself when you try to force your weight in either direction too much.

    Note: If you can’t find links to studies, please let me know, and I can try to dig them up. I’ve done so much reading that I tend to lose track of where I’ve read what, and for that I apologize.

  20. @Nine:

    Jared from Subway on line 2.

  21. @Nine: First of all, in the post I wasn’t equating fat with anything, good or bad. I suggested that an appropriate punishment for Trudeau is forcefeeding him until he’s morbidly obese. Does that sound like a good time to you? I said nothing about the appearance of anyone. I’m afraid you’re being overly sensitive here – if you didn’t feel very respected while reading the post, it was possibly due to the fact that you weren’t reading the post very carefully.

    I can appreciate why you might be sensitive to the issue, since society does treat larger people (especially women) very poorly, but you’ll do well to get beyond that and focus on those who are actually attacking you.

    For a quick look at how the Junkfood Science blog manipulates data and occasionally outright lies about the obvious links between obesity and health issues like diabetes and cancer, here’s just one of many notable point-by-point takedowns on Scienceblogs:
    http://scienceblogs.com/denialism/2007/10/obesity_primary_vs_secondary_p.php

  22. @Nine: Yeah, I have an issue with your statement “fat people are genetically meant to be fat and thin people are genetically meant to be thin”
    I don’t think the genetics argument is accurate. Rates of obesity (and being overweight) are rising over time, something has to be causing it. While I don’t think the genetic makeup of the population at large has changed, our lifestyle of eating more and moving less is indeed true.

  23. As I recall less then 2% of fat people can use the genetics excuse, the other 98% or so can just do what I did when I gained weight, take the fork out of their mouth.

  24. Your First Amendment-loving heart can rest easy. Commercial speech is not protected by the First Amendment.

    I can claim what I wish in terms of ideas and ideology, but if I tell you a lie to get you to buy something, that is called fraud. I guess the fraud in this case was that he was telling people his book would explain how you could eat “anything” but the book actually says you can’t eat certain foods, so that is the lie and that is fraud. While it doesn’t address the actual diet claims he makes, at least it gets him off the streets for a little while.

  25. @Rebecca: Thank you for the appeal to common sense and medical facts. Shall I dub you “Captain Obvious”? … Anyway, can we move on to discuss something a little less contentious? Like maybe Prop 8 or genital mutilation.

  26. Thanks for the link; I’ll read it later on.

    We both agree that force feeding does not sound like so much fun. But it seems pretty clear to me that, in your eyes, the result of the force feeding should be morbid obesity, and that is punishment because being obese is terrible and who on earth would want to be morbidly obese? Many in that category have come to love and appreciate their bodies. Can you see how your punishment would come across as hurtful to those that do?

  27. Skinny people can be just as unhealthy as fat people.

  28. @Nine: Okay, I’ll bite: who on earth would want to be morbidly obese?

  29. Banzai, Nine:

    Come on guys, a little nuance never hurt anyone. I defy you to find legitimate science that indicates either that “less 2% of fat people can use their genetics as an excuse” OR “fat people are genetically meant to be fat.”

    The fact is that, as with most things in our biology and psychology, there’s an interplay of many different factors.

    I, for instance, carry around a few extra pounds. Based on my family histroy, I think it’s likely that there is a genetic component to my weight, but I also recognize that I could certainly eat better and eat less.

    For some people, the genetic propensity towards being overweight (or underweight) may be more or less. It’s a scale. A continuum.

    My girlfriend eats as much or more than I do (anecdotally, of course), doesn’t work out, and yet is an absolute stick. I’d wager that her genetics plays a significant role there, probably more than my own genes contribute to me being overweight.

    Let’s keep things in perspective and avoid making huge, sweeping generalizations.

  30. @TheWireMonkey: Where did you go to law school? See http://www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/conlaw/commercial.htm

  31. @Nine: I think you need to make the distinction between morbidly obese and just fat. There IS a difference. morbidly obese is always unhealthy. Fat is not necessarily more unhealthy than skinny.

    And just to put it out there because it’s sort of on topic … the BMI is a bunch of crock.

  32. @greenishblu: I also carry around a few extra pounds. But I let her go whenever she starts to complain.

  33. @greenishblu: And you are probably just as healthy as she is, even with the few pounds of extra weight. It’s been proven that fat people aren’t necessarily unhealthier than skinny people.

    I am chubby, myself, but am much healthier than my skinny mom, who is constantly sick, and has high blood pressure. Of course, she’s skinny because of drugs and a diet of ice cream. I am chubby because I like french fries. But I also like veggies and fruits, and have gotten the clean bill of health from my doctor — my blood pressure is fine, and I am at no risk for diabetes. The only pill I’ve ever regularly been on is birth control, and antibiotics once for an ear infection. I need to exercise more now that I have a car (I used to walk a LOT), but other than that, I’m healthy as a horse.

    And yet, according to my BMI, I am right on the “obese” line. I’m not obese. It’s a crock. I’m short, and very curvy, and stocky, and all the women in my family are muscular. My hip-to-waist ratio, a MUCH better indicator of heart health, is well within the healthy range.

    I’m happy and healthily, even chubby. Imagine that. :)

  34. GOD I was hoping for a huge debate, guys. I AM BORED COME ON ENTERTAIN ME!

    Otherwise I shall just continue to stuff my face full of delicious french fries.

  35. I maintain that if you were to force feed someone, you could cause them to grow morbidly obese. If you reread, you’ll see that’s what I wrote – not that we’d just make him overeat.

    They do it quite effectively to geese all the time. One the few meats this carnivore won’t eat it fois gras and for that very cruel reason. However the thought of a turkey baster full of high calorie puree being forced down Trudeaus throat and squirted into his stomach is very gratifying.

  36. @marilove: Nooooo, no hip/waist ratio! Following that method, I am overweight because I have no hips and no waist. I am a rectangle. Wait, that just sounds like a sign off-

    I am a rectangle

  37. Rebecca,

    Of course, I did not mean that literally, given our society’s hatred of anyone greater than a size 6.

    I suppose I should be content with your acknowledgment that fat people are met with all kinds of discrimination. But I feel as if your statement of punishment factors in with that discrimination. Marilove is right about definitions, so let me clarify what morbid obesity means to me: it is a label placed on a number of people based only on an arbitrary number determined by the BMI. The only strong example of obesity being the cause of any of those afflictions in the Wikipedia article seems to be diabetes. Correlation, of course, is not causation, as I’m sure you’re aware. I see “headaches” as part of the list though. I know lots of thin people that get headaches. I see ovarian cancer there. I have PCOS, which is not only a cause for ovarian cancer, but – you guessed it – obesity too. Forgive me for not reading through each of those diseases to find out exactly how obesity is related. You can see my skepticism though.

    I would not have made so much as a peep if you had doomed Trudeau to any number of those diseases themselves, like diabetes (as you doomed him to cancer later in your post).

    If you honestly don’t see where I’m coming from, then I guess I’ll just call it a day. I’ve run out of time to continue to respond, unfortunately.

    Phlebas and Greenishblue: I did very clearly say that there are exceptions, as well as pepper my comments with “almost”s, “mostly”s, “usually”s, and “majority”s. I tried. (And Jared from Subway means very little to me, just as any woman baring the Weight Watchers banner or Lance Armstrong promoting some energy product means little to me; there is obviously an agenda there.)

    It’s becoming time-consuming to try to respond to everyone’s comments, so I apologize if I didn’t get to yours.

  38. @Amanda: Well, it’s not 100% accurage, of course, but it can be a good indicator of heart disease risk.:)

    The best indicator? Talkin’ to your doctor!

  39. Oh, and thank you for remaining respectful of my comments throughout our disagreement.

    I have so far enjoyed all of the Skepchick’s posts and links, and will continue to do so. I appreciate your effort, and keep up the great work! :)

    (Sorry for the double post, but I didn’t want to leave your work unappreciated.)

  40. Speaking of constitutional rights, wouldn’t force feeding that societal parasite violate his 8th amendment rights from cruel and unusual punishment? I would have to say it is defiantly unusual. Maybe Congress could pass a clause that allows for ironic and hilarious punishments.

  41. accurage? lol i have issues today.

  42. @skepticalhippy: Ever seen Se7en? lol.

    Force feeding is torture, plain and simple.

    Of course, Rebecca was being completely facetious.

  43. @Nine: Judging by this comment, you seem to be under the impression that morbid obesity is ill-defined (based only upon BMI, etc.), which isn’t quite correct. As with just about anything, there are fuzzy areas in which a person could be obese or just overweight, but in the case of morbid obesity, we’re clearly talking about drastically overweight people who have had their lives adversely affected by their weight.

    You also appear to be under the false impression that obesity has not been identified as the cause of many health problems. I suggest you read the denialism blog entry I linked to above (here it is again: http://scienceblogs.com/denialism/2007/10/obesity_primary_vs_secondary_p.php ) because it deals with that exact claim. He provides ample evidence to back up the plain fact that obesity leads directly to a number of otherwise preventable health problems. I highly recommend you read it carefully, as then you should be better able to see what I’m talking about.

  44. @marilove: I have always favored ability as a measurement of health. If you can run up 5 flights of stairs or backpack 60 miles in 4 days, your weight or BMI or waist measurement are irrelevant.

  45. @Nine: And thanks to you as well for keeping things calm. I know tempers can flare on issues like this, so it’s awesome to see someone who can disagree while remaining civil. (By the way, clicking the little arrow to the above right of a comment will automatically paste a link into your comment for replying.)

    @Noadi: Funny, I nearly mentioned the goose thing, and changed my mind because it disturbs me so much. Besides, they usually die of their organs bursting before becoming obese. Ugh.

  46. @marilove: Thanks for putting up with me. ;)

  47. @skepticalhippy: Isn’t the death penalty for murder an ironic punishment?

  48. Obesity is on the rise in developed nations as a whole due to the dietary and lifestyle changes that result. It apparently doesn’t take much either.

    From the abstract linked below:

    “In Why is the Developed World Obese? (NBER Working Paper No. 12954), authors Sara Bleich, David Cutler, Christopher Murray, and Alyce Adams show that rising obesity in the developed world is primarily the result of consuming more calories. Specifically, they find that increased caloric intake accounted for 93 percent of the change in adult obesity from1990 to 2001 (the remainder is attributable to reduced energy expenditure). The increase in caloric intake appears to be driven by technological innovations, such as lower food prices and the ease with which businesses can enter the marketplace, as well as changing sociodemographic characteristics such as increased labor force participation and increased urbanization.”

    http://www.nber.org/digest/nov07/w12954.html

  49. For those interested in foie gras, here is a link to a youtube clip from the show “f word” discussing and showing the raising methods of traditional foie gras vs. ethical foie gras. I think the most revealing part is how the ducks on the traditional foie gras farm run from the farmer during feeding time vs. the geese on the ethical farm running to the farmer to be feed.

  50. @Amanda: *giggle* Thanks for putting up with ME! I didn’t even consider that not everyone naturally has a waist, even thin people, because I am so used to my curviness. I am all boobs, all hips, and all ass, lmao.

  51. @greenishblu: Not arguing at all here, I just want to point out: A family of people who are all overweight do not necessarily share the “overweight gene”. They may simply be sharing sedentary habits and poor eating choices (independent of any gene causing obesity) given that they all live in the same behavioural environment.

  52. @Kimbo Jones: Damn you, I was going to write that after I had finished walking home from work.

  53. @TheSkepticalMale: I don’t know, what do you think?

  54. @skepticalhippy: Muahaha, you have been struck by the elusive comment snatcher!

  55. I have nothing to add to this discussion other than: recently I’ve been eating a lot more, and I’ve gained weight. That’s OK, I was pretty skinny to start with. Now I’m curvier but still skinny. The amount you eat is directly linked to your size. If you eat less, you lose weight. Skinny people don’t eat the same amount as fat people, I’m sure. I know fat people. They eat loads. I know skinny people, most of them eat little (like I used to). Or if they do eat loads, they exercise more. Genes alone don’t account for size, lifestyle is a major factor. I do, however, know a fair few fat people who don’t like to admit that.

  56. @tkingdoll: Physics and thermodynamics and all that stuff simply must come into play. And thinking of you with more curves is just hot!

  57. @Kimbo Jones:

    I couldn’t agree more, which is why I said that there is likely a genetic component.

    Also, I didn’t want to bog down my message with family details, but here goes:

    My mother and her siblings in fact did grow up in disparate environments. My bio-grandma died in childbirth, and her three kids went to three different families. The three siblings grew up, respectively, in urban Salt Lake City, rural New Mexico and Iran/Afghanistan/Morocco. My mother’s older siblings didn’t even know she existed until she was in her thirties.

    Just an interesting family detail that is minutely relevant to my point… :)

  58. @tkingdoll: Scratch this, and instead, you shall now be dubbed, Captain Obvious … :) … Don’t mind me, I’m just bitter because I never got a copy of the skepchick calendar.

  59. Sweeeeeeeeet.

  60. @greenishblu: Just making sure everyone was clear. :)

  61. I’m also anti-death penalty, but I’m very pro public-spanking-in-town’s-square-penalty.

  62. Thanks for linking and passing the word on to a much bigger audience!

    So I was just passing through and noticed the discussion about weight. I listened to a NPR podcast a while back regarding a weight loss/weight gain study. Two groups of volunteer prisoners took part, half were underweight (UW), the other half overweight (OW). The UWs were given huge portions at each meal and asked to eat as much as they could. The OWs were given very lite portions. For the first week, both groups felt tortured but eventually got used to the routine. The UWs gained weight, the OWs lost weight, as you’d expect…something on the order of 20 lbs for each group. But once the experiment ended, each group had returned to their previous weight within a year. They had all migrated back to their original eating habits. A lot of this was attributed to their inherent metabolism. I chalk it up to genetics. A sedentary lifestyle and the easy availability of food only exacerbates a genetic predisposition to being overweight…which would otherwise have been qualified average a couple hundred years ago.

  63. Talking about a genetic component to being overweight sounds good, but I think it’s really the simple fact that fast-food places take debit cards now.

    It’s a lot easier to talk yourself into getting the Reese’s Cup Blizzard and a side of onion rings when you don’t have to find a bank first.

    That said, Kevin Trudeau can still suck it.

  64. Kevin Trudeau’s partner and ITV CEO, Donald Barrett, is also being sued for $54 million for misleading practices in selling Coral Calcium. If you’ve ever seen the guy, he looks like an early 20th century gangster. The guy sweats smugness. The Boston Herald gives us a glimpse at his trial:

    “Barrett, who appeared on the witness stand yesterday in a crisp blue cotton shirt and a polka dot tie, was peppered with questions from Hippsley about why income on his tax returns differed from the amount of cash deposited into his bank accounts in Beverly. “I have no idea, you’ll have to ask my accountant,” he said with a grin.”

    Creep.

  65. When does this ban start?

    He is on TV right now.

    The “SCIFI” channel.

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