Skepticism

The Massive Alleged Fraud Behind “America’s Frontline Doctors”

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Transcript:

Hey, remember these guys? America’s Frontline Doctors, a collection of people, some of whom legitimately had M.D.s,, who put out a viral video of a press conference in July of 2020 arguing things like “there’s not a single documented case of COVID transferring from student to teacher,” and therefore the US should open up schools without masks or other precautions. We did open child care and early learning centers, which led childcare workers to die at rates higher than the average American in 2020 according to a study published this past summer. Kindergarten through 12th grade teachers, who were mostly able to conduct classes online through 2020, had lower than average death rates.

The star of that press conference was Dr. Stella Immanuel, who I talked about in a video at the time:

“Immanuel is a pediatrician based in Texas who took her time at the dais to announce that face masks don’t work to stop the spread of COVID-19 and the “cure” for the virus is hydroxychloroquine, zinc and Zithromax, which studies have shown to do more harm than good in patients and which the FDA does not authorize for the treatment of COVID-19 patients.

Let’s go through some of the beliefs that Immanuel didn’t get to mention in her stirring speech at the press conference. You’ve probably heard about this by now but I like to be thorough for future anthropologists:

She thinks endometriosis, infertility and other problems with the reproductive system are caused by witches and demons that have sex with you while you’re asleep

She thinks DNA from space aliens is in prescription drugs (not sure if that includes Zithromax)

She thinks scientists are trying to make a vaccine to stop you from being religious

She thinks Hannah Montana is a gateway that leads children to evil

She thinks lizards control the world

And finally she thinks children should be whipped, which the Daily Beast finds unusual for a pediatrician, suggesting they do not find it unusual for a pediatrician to think witches have sex with you when you’re asleep.”

With that information out there, and with the fact that social media sites like YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter actually did a really good job of taking that video down as quickly as possible, I honestly didn’t think this collection of clowns was going to really gain traction. Yes, obviously, with Trump boosting it the ideas caught on: hydroxychloroquine treatments, no lockdowns and no masks, all that bullshit spread like wildfire but I almost immediately forgot the name “America’s Frontline Doctors” and assumed everyone else did as well.

I was very wrong.

AFLDS, as they’re known, which is confusing because “FLDS” is the branch of Mormonism that marries little girls off to their own grandfathers but okay, but AFLDS wasn’t just a grassroots attempt at activism that failed to catch on. In fact, it was created by extremely wealthy conservative Christian organizations known as the Council for National Policy (CNP) and the Tea Party Patriots, who wanted to use “science” as a cover to push for reopening the economy at the expense of American lives. These organizations have absolutely massive amounts of money and influence, especially CNP, which has been around for 40 years and has included members like scammy televangelist Jerry Falwell, war criminal Oliver North, anti-education zealot Betsy Devos and Virgina Thomas, QAnon supporter and wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. A leaked call transcript from a CNP meeting revealed that they explicitly wanted a group of pro-Trump doctors who would improve that administration’s anti-science image.

They tapped Dr. Simone Gold to lead AFLDS, and apparently set her up with office space and employees, though the “nonprofit” failed to file any of the necessary financial disclosures that would give us an idea of how much money they had or how many people were working there. After their press conference, which was squelched by mainstream social media but which continued to be a hit in rightwing extremist circles like Breitbart, they kept busy lobbying against lockdown measures, masking, and then vaccines, while promoting things like hydroxychloroquine and then ivermectin.

Gold apparently got fired from her position as an ER doctor at two hospitals but wasn’t lacking for money, thanks in part to AFLDS getting into the business of absolutely fleecing their new, gullible conservative fans. They set up a telemedicine referral operation where marks could pay $90 to get a prescription for ivermectin, and then be referred to an online pharmacy that would charge them up to $700. The anti-parasitic drug would then be mailed to them, or not, according to hundreds of customers who gradually began to realize they had been scammed. Some of them didn’t even get the initial prescription despite paying the money.

In 2021, AFLDS organized a cross-country RV tour where they would sell $1000 VIP tickets to meet Gold and then just not show up, with their forum moderators telling fans that if they want an event to happen they need to give more money.

Oh, and did I mention that Gold was arrested in January of 2021? Can you guess what she did? That’s right, she stormed the capital along with her boyfriend, an underwear model. But don’t worry, she used it as an opportunity to do more fundraising for her legal fees, and then she only had to do 6 weeks in Club Fed. 

And all of that is just the appetizer for today’s main meal: this month, AFLDS sued their own “founder,” Simone Gold, and my god, the tea that we have learned since. Mwah. Chef’s kiss.

Thanks to the legal filings, we now know that AFLDS was suspicious that Gold was misusing funds and was already starting to audit the previous year of activity by the time she went to prison in late summer of 2022. While she was dealing with legal proceedings and then spending time in the pokey, a lawyer named ??Joseph Gilbert took over AFLDS and tried to hold onto power after she was released in September of this year. Gold was angry about this and did things like releasing press releases claiming she was still president and accusing Gilbert of misappropriating funds. Then she asked employees to take over the organization’s DNS and email servers and lock other employees out of the system, which I guess was the last straw, so Gilbert filed the lawsuit against her.

And thanks to all that, we now have a better idea of how much money AFLDS was taking in. The suit alleges that “in November 2021, (Gold) purchased a $3.6 million home in Naples, Florida with AFLDS funds, “without authorization or approval by the Board of Directors.” Soon after, it alleges, she signed a residential lease on another Naples property, and a fellow self-proclaimed medical freedom activist and his wife lived “rent free.” 

The suit also accuses Gold of using AFLDS funds to buy “a Mercedes Benz Sprinter van, a Hyundai Genesis, and a GMC Denali” for her personal use, as well as paying a personal security officer $12,000 per month and a housekeeper $5,600, “and otherwise spending money for personal items on AFLDS credit cards at a rate of nearly $50,000 per month.” The suit also alleges the home was used by GoldCare employees; GoldCare is a telemedicine service founded by Gold that charges $1,000 per year for individual memberships, and—of course—does not accept insurance.”

There was also a $100,000 private jet trip (yes, just one trip apparently) and $15,000 a month in personal expenses for Gold’s boy toy.

The documents also reveal that after she stepped down from AFLDS during her trial she tried to negotiate a consultant position with them so she could make $600,000 a year with a $1.5 million signing bonus and asked for her boyfriend (who was also an employee) to get a $72,000 a year raise to be deducted from another doctor on staff.
This seems like a kind of opposite “Alien versus Predator” fight, in that whoever wins this lawsuit, we ALL win because AFLDS is probably going down in flames faster than….well, Twitter I guess, because that’s still up? Despite referring to herself as, and I am not kidding, a “mother lioness (who) will not let her baby lion (AFLDS) be murdered,” Gold appears to be doing that other thing mother lionesses are known for, which is eating their own young when times get tough. Which is great! Bon appetit, Dr. Gold! May we never hear your name in the news again when you’ve finished.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca is a writer, speaker, YouTube personality, and unrepentant science nerd. In addition to founding and continuing to run Skepchick, she hosts Quiz-o-Tron, a monthly science-themed quiz show and podcast that pits comedians against nerds. There is an asteroid named in her honor.

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