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Televangelist Jim Bakker sued for selling fake coronavirus cure

Measures to stop the coronavirus spread

Televangelist Jim Bakker is being sued by the state of Missouri for selling fake coronavirus cures on his website. On Monday, the Jim Bakker Show and six other companies were warned by the the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to stop selling unapproved products and treatments.

Bakker's website offered products like "Silver Sol Liquid," that claimed to be able to diagnose or cure the coronavirus illness, COVID-19. In a letter to the Jim Bakker Show, the FDA said the products are in violation of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. 

"The Secretary of Health and Human Services ... has determined that a public health emergency exists nationwide as a result of confirmed cases of COVID-19. Therefore, FDA is taking urgent measures to protect consumers from certain products that, without approval or authorization by FDA, claim to mitigate, prevent, treat, diagnose or cure COVID 19 in people," the agency wrote.

The letter ordered Bakker to take immediate actions to correct the violations and gave him 48 hours to take the products off of his site. 

Jim Bakker
Televangelist Jim Bakker, right, walks with his wife Lori Beth Graham after a funeral service the Rev. Billy Graham in March 2018. Chuck Burton / AP

Now, Baker and Morningside Church Productions, which produces his show, are being sued by the state of Missouri, where they are based, for selling the Silver Solution and other related products, as outlined in the suit.

The state accuses Bakker of violating the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act by "falsely promising to consumers that Silver Solution can cure, eliminate, kill or deactivate coronavirus and/or boost elderly consumers' immune system and help keep them healthy when there is, in fact, no vaccine, pill, potion or other product available to treat or cure coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)."

The suit says Bakker has been selling the "Silver Solution" — also known as "Silver Sol" and "Optivida Silver Solution" — since at least February 12, 2020. He promoted the product on his show, saying "it hasn't been tested on this strain of the coronavirus, but it has been tested on other strains of the coronavirus and has been able to eliminate it within 12 hours."

He also claimed the government proved Silver Sol has the ability to kill every pathogen it has ever been tested on, including SARS and HIV. These claims, which are reiterated on Bakker's website, are completely baseless. 

"False personas" spread coronavirus misinformation online

In the FDA's letter to Bakker, the agency states "there are currently no vaccines, potions, lotions, lozenges or other prescription or over-the-counter products available to treat or cure coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19)." 

To prevent Bakker from continuing to perpetuate false claims and misbranded products, the state of Missouri is asking for a temporary restraining order to stop Bakker and anyone involved from "selling, offering for sale or advertising Silver Solution as a treatment for coronavirus in and from the state of Missouri."

New York's attorney general also sent a cease-and-desist to Bakker after The Center for Science in the Public Interest called out the televangelist for using his show to tout the supplements as able to cure the coronavirus "within 12 hours."

Bakker has been previously convicted of fraud and spent time in federal prison for activities related to his Praise The Lord, PTL, Club Show, which featured him and his then-wife, Tammy Faye Bakker. The couple drew headlines in the late 1980s in a scandal that had Bakker paying hush money to hide an affair with Jessica Hahn, a church secretary.

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In the 1980s, Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker had a huge following and a multimillion-dollar media empire in the The PTL Club. That all changed in 1987 when Jessica Hahn, a former church secretary, announced she had a "sexual encounter" with Bakker years earlier and had been paid off for years.  AP Photo
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