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Televangelist Jim Bakker among those warned about phony coronavirus cures

False info on coronavirus spreading online
"False personas" spread coronavirus misinformation online 10:40

Televangelist Jim Bakker is among those getting told to put a lid on claims his silver potions can cure the coronavirus. The Jim Bakker Show is among seven companies sent warning letters for selling unapproved products and treatments, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and the U.S. food and Drug Administration said Monday.

"The FDA considers the sale and promotion of fraudulent COVID-19 products to be a threat to the public health. We have an aggressive surveillance program that routinely monitors online sources for health fraud products, especially during a significant public health issue such as this one," FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn said in a statement.

The FDA is concerned that people using the products might postpone actual medical treatment, "leading to serious and life-threatening harm." As things stand, there are no vaccines or approved drugs to treat or prevent the coronavirus, according to Johns Hopkins University. The disease caused by the virus, called COVID-19, was blamed for at least 24 deaths in the U.S. as of Monday. Globally, more than 3,800 have died.

"There already is a high level of anxiety over the potential spread of coronavirus," FTC Chairman Joe Simons said in a statement. "What we don't need in this situation are companies preying on consumers by promoting products with fraudulent prevention and treatment claims. These warning letters are just the first step. We're prepared to take enforcement actions against companies that continue to market this type of scam."

Bakker's website offers products purporting to contain silver, such as "Silver Sol Liquid," intended to diagnose or cure COVID-19 in people, the FDA said in a March 6 letter to the Jim Bakker Show.

The Jim Bakker Show did not return requests for comment.

Along with Bakker's business, other companies warned over advertising products including teas, essential oils and colloidal silver as able to treat or prevent coronavirus include:

Previously convicted of fraud, Bakker spent time in federal prison for activities related to his Praise The Lord, PTL, Club Show, which featured he 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.

The federal warning comes less than a week after New York's attorney general sent a cease-and-desist to Bakker, and after the Center for Science in the Public Interest last month called out the televangelist for using his show to tout supplements sold in his online store as able to cure the coronavirus "within 12 hours."

A clip of Bakker and a contributor to his show, "naturopath" Sherill Sellman, was circulated by @RightWingWatch, a Twitter account maintained by People for the American Way, a left-leaning advocacy group. The clip shows Bakker asking Sellman: "This influenza, which is now circling the globe, you're saying that Silver Solution would be effective?" To which Sellman replied: "Well, let's say it hasn't been tested against this strain of the coronavirus, but it's been tested on other strains of the coronavirus and has been able to eliminate it within 12 hours."

Separately, the FDA in January called on the maker of Purell to stop claiming some of its hand sanitizers help guard against Ebola, norovirus, the flu and other maladies.

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