Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt has just won a $156,766 judgment against Jim Bakker after the televangelist spread a harmful lie on his show (several times!) about the supposed effectiveness of “Silver Solution” as a “treatment for 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19).”
Some backstory: Back in February of 2020, before we really understood how harmful and transmissible COVID was, Bakker began selling “Silver Solution” as a cure for coronavirus, saying the solution would kill off the virus in under 12 hours.
The Jim Bakker Show is suggesting that the silver solution it sells can kill the coronavirus within 12 hours. pic.twitter.com/kbUGnUp69m
— Right Wing Watch (@RightWingWatch) February 12, 2020
It wasn’t his only claim. Bakker said the product could get rid of “all venereal diseases” and prevent SARS and HIV. He also said the silver is “almost like a miracle” and that “God created it in Heaven.” But the claim of a COVID cure was especially egregious.
Around that time, Bakker received letters demanding he stop this particular grift from New York Attorney General Letitia James. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission did the same thing, giving Bakker 48 hours to stop hawking that item before they came after him. He quickly stopped promoting it — after nearly a dozen separate segments on his show — but the harm was done.
That’s when Schmitt stepped in. He sued Bakker’s ministry (which is based in Missouri) in March of 2020 for spreading this lie.
The lawsuit alleges that in a February 12, 2020 Jim Bakker Show production that aired nationwide, Bakker and guest Sherill Sellman, a “naturopathic doctor”, claimed that “Silver Solution” can cure coronavirus.
Anyone who has bought “Silver Solution” from the Jim Bakker Show should know that it cannot cure or treat coronavirus.
The lawsuit filed this morning requests a restraining order and permanent injunction ordering Bakker to stop selling Silver Solution as a treatment for coronavirus.
Bakker argued that he hadn’t personally promoted the product — that his guest Sellman did — but this was his show and his ministry. That meant he was responsible. Bakker’s lawyer, former Missouri Governor and Attorney General Jay Nixon, then tried a different tactic. He argued that Schmitt was going after Bakker’s “religious freedoms.”
“Jim Bakker is being unfairly targeted by those who want to crush his ministry and force his Christian television program off the air,” said Jay Nixon, Bakker’s attorney and former Governor and Attorney General of Missouri. “The video recording of The Jim Bakker Show clearly shows the allegations are false. Bakker did not claim or state that Silver Solution was a cure for COVID-19. This case is about religious freedom.”
Nixon described the complaint against Bakker and his ministry as “unprecedented” and disappointing.
“Similar silver products are commonly sold health supplements, available at Walmart, Amazon, CVS, and GNC,” Nixon said. “Targeting a Christian pastor, who has been using and offering the product for the past 10 years, is not supported by the facts or the law.”
While it’s true that silver products are sold elsewhere, no one else was suggesting it could cure the virus since that would be false advertising. Nixon also argued that Bakker shouldn’t be punished because he didn’t sell it with “actual malice,” as if Bakker’s ignorance granted him immunity to selling a dangerous sham product.
Even Maricela Woodall, the president of Bakker’s ministry Morningside Church Productions, told a judge that selling Silver Solution was part of their faith because the product was “made available to this generation by God” and Bakker was “divinely inspired” to offer it to his audience.
None of it worked. And now, today, Schmitt announced a resolution to the case.
“Today I’m pleased to announce that the Missouri Attorney General’s Office has obtained a consent judgment against Jim Bakker and Morningside Church Productions that results in $156,000 in restitution and strong safeguards to prevent the marketing of ‘silver solution’ as a cure or treatment for COVID and other medical issues,” said Attorney General Schmitt. “My Office will continue to work tirelessly on behalf of Missouri consumers, and will not hesitate to take action when those consumers are being defrauded.”
Under the consent judgment, which was signed yesterday by Judge Alan Blankenship, Bakker is not allowed to sell or advertise “silver solution” as a way to diagnose, prevent, mitigate, treat or cure any disease or illness, and must return an additional $90,000 to consumers who purchased “silver solution” between February 12, 2020, and March 10, 2020.
Restitution checks will be mailed to Missouri consumers who purchased the “silver solution” no later than 30 days after the execution of the consent judgment, and upon receipt of the check, those consumers will have 90 days to cash the check. Bakker has already refunded a number of customers, which, combined with the $90,000, totals up to roughly $156,000 in restitution.
In English, that means Bakker won’t have pay some exorbitant penalty, but he has to reimburse every single person in Missouri who bought the product. That total comes out to $156,766.
The actual judgment, by the way, notes that Bakker is denying “any and all allegations of wrongdoing” and that both sides have agreed to this resolution to avoid a more costly legal battle. If Bakker doesn’t follow through with the reimbursements, he will have to cough up a separate $50,000 payment to the state in civil penalties and another $10,000 for the Attorney General’s costs.
He’ll likely spin this as a persecution tale and say it was a move he needed to make to avoid further litigation. But the reality is that everyone knows he sold a lie and a judge is now forcing him to do the bare minimum in paying back the people who fell for his scam. Bakker is lucky that he won’t have to pay the medical costs for anyone who avoided other COVID precautions after purchasing his Silver Solution, only to succumb to the virus later on.
(via Right Wing Watch)