Regular readers might have noticed that my output lately hasn’t been as…prolific…as in the past. You’d think that, with my spending more time at home than I have in a long time due to the restrictions put in place in Michigan to slow the spread of COVID-19 that I’d be a blogging fiend, even more so than usual, but oddly enough I’ve been less productive in that area than in the past. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because all the topics that catch my eye are COVID-19-related and just too damned depressing. Fun topics, silly types of pseudoscience, just don’t seem worth spending much effort on. On the other hand, maybe it would help my mood and productivity to do a post every now and then on something like Bach flower remedies. This is not that day, however, because I just got the opportunity to rectify an oversight that dates back to the very beginning of this blog, my never having discussed in depth an antivaxxer named Judy Mikovits.
This opportunity comes in the form of a “trailer” to a “full length documentary” called Plandemic, which is being previewed by the release of a “series of vignettes,” the first of which was released yesterday. (26 minutes is a hell of a vignette! How long is the completed documentary? Ten hours?) From the name, you can tell that this is going to be a conspiracyfest of a “documentary,” arguing that the current COVID-19 pandemic was somehow planned. We’ll get to that shortly. First, here’s where the oversight rectification comes in. This first segment is about Judy Mikovits, someone I should have written about years and years ago, but somehow have never discussed on this blog. When you hear her story, you’ll see why I was shocked to realize that Mikovits has only been briefly mentioned a couple of times on this blog. Now, as is the case with a lot of cranks and antivaxxers, Mikovits is grifting on the COVID-19 conspiracy bandwagon.
Here’s the trailer, which includes the video.
The blurb for this movie is just plain bonkers:
Humanity is imprisoned by a killer pandemic. People are being arrested for surfing in the ocean and meditating in nature. Nations are collapsing. Hungry citizens are rioting for food. The media has generated so much confusion and fear that people are begging for salvation in a syringe. Billionaire patent owners are pushing for globally mandated vaccines. Anyone who refuses to be injected with experimental poisons will be prohibited from travel, education and work. No, this is not a synopsis for a new horror movie. This is our current reality.
No, people are being arrested for overcrowding and refusing to social distance sufficiently. As yet, I haven’t seen any nations collapsing due to COVID-19, although it’s certainly possible that this could happen if an unstable nation is sufficiently stressed. As for the “billionaire patent owners,” one wonders to whom the filmmaker is referring, one does. (OK, you likely know that it’s Bill Gates, whose advocacy for public health and vaccines have made him one of the most reviled people in existence to the tinfoil hat conspiracy crowd, particularly the antivaccine contingent. Basically, to them, he’s a sweater-wearing Darth Vader, Lord Sauron, and Voldemort all rolled up into one, except that he’s working behind the scenes like Frank Underwood in the first couple of seasons of House of Cards before he became President to enslave us all with vaccines and pharmaceuticals.)
The movie boldly paddles up the river of pseudoscience and deeper into tinfoil hat conspiracy territory:
In the early 1900s, America’s first Billionaire, John D. Rockefeller bought a German pharmaceutical company that would later assist Hitler to implement his eugenics-based vision by manufacturing chemicals and poisons for war. Rockefeller wanted to eliminate the competitors of Western medicine, so he submitted a report to Congress declaring that there were too many doctors and medical schools in America, and that all natural healing modalities were unscientific quackery. Rockefeller called for the standardization of medical education, whereby only his organization be allowed to grant medical school licenses in the US. And so began the practice of immune suppressive, synthetic and toxic drugs. Once people had become dependent on this new system and the addictive drugs it provided, the system switched to a paid program, creating lifelong customers for the Rockefellers. Currently, medical error is the third leading cause of death in the US. Rockefeller’s secret weapon to success was the strategy known as, “problem-reaction-solution.” Create a problem, escalate fear, then offer a pre-planned solution. Sound familiar?
Flash forward to 2020…
They named it COVID19. Our leaders of world health predicted millions would die. The National Guard was deployed. Makeshift hospitals were erected to care for a massive overflow of patients. Mass graves were dug. Terrifying news reports had people everywhere seeking shelter to avoid contact. The plan was unfolding with diabolical precision, but the masters of the Pandemic underestimated one thing… the people. Medical professionals and every-day citizens are sharing critical information online. The overlords of big tech have ordered all dissenting voices to be silenced and banned, but they are too late. The slumbering masses are awake and aware that something is not right. Quarantine has provided the missing element: time. Suddenly, our overworked citizenry has ample time to research and investigate for themselves. Once you see, you can’t unsee.
I’ll give the filmmaker credit for…imagination…for going all the way back to John D. Rockefeller as the origin of the evil plot that has now culminated a century later in the COVID-19 pandemic. At this point, as an aside, I can’t resist mentioning that medical error is not the third leading cause of death. Not even close. That’s a myth that just won’t die. (It’s my duty to point that out any time someone parrots that idiocy.)
I do love that last paragraph, though. It is exactly why people are prone to conspiracy theories. A good conspiracy theory turns the believer into a hero, a warrior with secret knowledge that none of the other ignorant “sheeple” know, against powerful forces arrayed against him. A good conspiracy theory almost always has a part at the end in which the “people” (in this case, the people believing the conspiracy theory) “wake up” and see what is being “suppressed” by the powerful forces seeking to keep them ignorant. Conspiracy theories like this both make the believer feel special and brave for having secret knowledge and fighting to make it public, but also provide an explanation for bad things happening in the world. Yes, the conspiracy theory in Plandemic is utterly ridiculous to those of us who know science, medicine, and history, but most people don’t know the relevant science, medicine, and history. To them, it sounds plausible.
Judy Mikovits as portrayed by Mikki Willis
We now get to Judy Mikovits, who is portrayed in the clip above as just the sort of brave maverick scientist and truth teller that every good conspiracy theory needs, a woman with hidden knowledge who’s fighting dark powerful forces seeking to “silence her.” The sad thing is, at one time she was a decent scientist, unlike some other legitimate scientists turned antivaccine cranks, like Christopher Shaw, Christopher Exley, Jeffrey Lyons-Weiler, and Andrew Wakefield, who were almost certainly never very good scientists even before they turned into cranks.
Before I delve into the clip and Judy Mikovits’ story, I had to look into the filmmaker. Oddly enough, I didn’t see his name, Mikki Willis, on the Plandemic website, although a bunch of YouTube videos showed up at the end of the trailer featuring him. A quick Google search revealed that Willis is a filmmaker who founded Elevate, a film company that supposedly does “transformative media.” (Conspiracy theory movies are transformative, albeit not in a good way, I guess. Just look at VAXXED. I’m getting a distinctly Del Bigtree vibe.) Willis is also grandiose:
September 11th, 2001 marked a turning point in Mikki Willis’ life and career. Having been inside the twin towers just hours before they fell, he helped to organize a group of civilians who remained at Ground Zero for 3 days to aid in the search and rescue efforts. It was atop the rubble of the World Trade Center that the vision for the Elevate was born.
Hmmm. I wonder if this is where Willis’ penchant for conspiracy theories was born. A perusal of his filmography on IMDb reveals a definite penchant for woo, though, with a film called The Rub of Attraction about The Secret, Ten Seconds to Midnight (which appears to be about the end of the world in 2012 foretold by the Mayan calendar), and The Shadow Effect, featuring Deepak Chopra, Marianne Williamson, James Van Praugh, and Mark Victor Hansen.
Back to the trailer.
Right from the very beginning, Mikovits is introduced as a great scientist (“one of the most accomplished scientists of her generation”) who was demonized and exiled from the world of science by big pharma and the dogmatic gatekeepers of science after having reported something that “they” didn’t want you to know about. (A “blockbuster article in the journal Science” that supposedly found that the “common use of animal and fetal tissue were unleashing devastating plagues of chronic diseases.” I’ll get into the details a bit in a moment.) It’s a nauseatingly familiar exaggerated narrative, complete with ominous music and an oh-so-serious voiceover, as Mikovits is shown walking and talking with Willis. The voiceover intones, “For exposing their deadly secrets, the minions of big pharma waged war on Dr. Mikovits, destroying her name, career, and personal life.” (Seriously, that was so over-the-top that I actually laughed when I heard it, and I was only less than a minute into the video.)
The voiceover continues:
Now, as the fate of nations hangs in the balance, Dr. Mikovits is naming names and in the plague of corruption that places all human life in danger.
The reality is, as you will see, quite different.
Dr. Judy Mikovits’ pre-conspiracy career
First, let’s look at Dr. Mikovits’ pre-crank scientific career. Let’s just say that her background has been…embellished. Wikipedia notes that in her early career, after having been awarded a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry with a specialization in biology at the University of Virginia in 1980, Mikovits went to the National Cancer Institute in 1980, where she worked as a researcher in the laboratory of Francis “Frank” Ruscetti, developing purification methods for interferon-alpha. (For those of you who disingenuously object to the use of Wikipedia for anything, note that this is only a starting point, and I examined many of the primary sources linked to in the article and used them whenever possible.)
Mikovits also briefly worked at Upjohn Pharmaceuticals in Kalamazoo, MI to develop production methods to ensure biological materials manufactured using human blood products were free of contamination from HIV-1. Given that she only had a Bachelor degree, that tells me she worked as a technician in Dr. Ruscetti’s laboratory. She did, however, ultimately get a PhD in a joint program in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at George Washington University in 1992, with her PhD thesis being entitled Negative Regulation of HIV Expression in Monocytes. I note that Mikovits and her admirers often claim that her doctoral thesis “changed the treatment of HIV-AIDS” but have struggled to find evidence that this was so or that her thesis was such a “game changer.” Quite simply, she worked in Dr. Ruscetti’s laboratory, did some good work, but was never a “brilliant” scientist, much less “”one of the most accomplished scientists of her generation.” She has 34 publications in PubMed, for which she’s first author only on eight and corresponding author on only four, only one of them from her time at the NIH.
This archived entry in the Wayback Machine from 1998 describes her thusly:
Dr. Mikovits obtained her Ph.D. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from George Washington University. Her doctoral research focused on HIV-1 latency under the direction of Francis Ruscetti. Dr. Mikovits performed postdoctoral work on the molecular genetics of HTLV-1 under David Derse at the National Cancer Institute-FCRDC.
The mechanisms by which human retroviruses alter the function of the immune system and other host responses resulting in pathogenesis are not well understood. The current focus of our studies is to define viral and cellular factors involved in pathogenesis. Specifically, we have examined viral and cellular factors involved in regulating HIV infectivity and expression, cell death and mechanisms of immune dysfunction. In this regard, we and others have shown that HIV-1 expression in monocytes and helper T lymphocytes can be silenced and that this latency can be overcome by both immune activation and hypomethylation. Studies of SIV and HIV infection in the lymph nodes indicate that the capacity of the host to control viral load is predictive of disease progression. The importance of latent reservoirs is underscored by recent studies showing patients in which plasma virus is reduced to undetectable levels following highly active triple drug antiretroviral therapy, however soon after cessation of therapy high viral titers are again detected, suggesting long lived reservoirs of latent virus exist. Therefore, we have focused our efforts on examining infectivity of HIV-1 and HTLV-1 and defining cytokines and other cellular mechanisms involved in maintaining a balance between human retroviral expression and latency.
Those of you who know what all that means can see that she did what looks like some good work. Those of you who know how science works will also know that that, as of 1998, Mikovits had never become independent. She was not a principal investigator. she was doing work in a principal investigator’s lab supervised by that PI. As far as I can tell, she was never an independent researcher at the NIH. In fact, she left in 2001 to get married and take a job at a biotech startup, EpiGenX Pharmaceuticals, working on developing anticancer drugs.
The descent into conspiracy mongering begins
There’s a New York Times article from 2009 that picks up the story of Judy Mikovits by describing the findings that Mikovits published. At the time, she was the research director for the Whittemore-Peterson Institute for Neuro-Immune Disease, a nonprofit in Reno, NV founded recently by the parents of a young woman who has the syndrome, Andrea Whittemore-Goad, in 2006. It’s interesting to note how Mikovits was recruited by Harvey and Annette Whittemore to become the director of their institute:
She and her husband had the means, the knowledge and the connections. They are real estate developers and part owners of a gas company and an energy drink, and they hold interests in other businesses. Mr. Whittemore is also a lawyer and a lobbyist. Starting in the fall of 2004, they put $5 million of their own money into setting up an institute at the University of Nevada’s medical school. They also persuaded the governor and State Legislature to commit $10 million for a new building that would house the institute’s researchers and a clinic, as well as scientists from the university and the Nevada Cancer Institute. The research began in 2006, and a clinic for patients is scheduled to open in about a year.
Rather than just doling out money to far-flung researchers, the Whittemores wanted to employ their own scientists who would be devoted full time to the cause. In the spring of 2006, they met Dr. Judy A. Mikovits, a virus expert who had spent 22 years working at the National Cancer Institute. She had left the institute in 2001 to get married and move to California, where she went to work for a drug development company that failed. She was tending bar at a yacht club when a patron said her constant talk about viruses reminded him of someone he knew in Nevada. That person was a friend of Annette Whittemore’s. Dr. Mikovits soon found herself at a conference on chronic fatigue syndrome.
I find it rather…interesting…that the Whittemores recruited a scientist who hadn’t worked in the field for five years and who was working on cancer therapies at a small drug development firm and tending bar at the time to direct an institute into which they were pouring millions of dollars. This is particularly true to me given that chronic fatigue syndrome is a condition whose cause has long eluded scientists to the point where some question whether it’s a real diagnosis for a single syndrome. To be successful in cracking a problem whose answer has eluded scientists for decades requires an excellent scientist. Picking someone like Mikovits hardly seemed like a good recipe for success! Of course, that is the problem with private institutes run by wealthy philanthropists. If the philanthropists are fixated on one idea, they’ll hire people and fund research looking for evidence to support that idea. Mikovits had one tool, a hammer (in this case, her study of viruses for two decades), and so every problem (in this case chronic fatigue syndrome) was a nail. Reading between the lines, I get the feeling that the Whittemores were taken with the idea that CFS was caused by a virus, leading to the hiring of Mikovits.
In any event, after meeting Dr. Daniel L. Peterson, who described how some of his chronic fatigue syndrome patients developed a rare form of lymphoma, an observation that led Mikovits to conclude that it must be a retrovirus causing CFS. The result:
Dr. Mikovits began connecting the dots almost immediately. She knew that some patients with chronic fatigue syndrome, and some men with prostate cancer, had a certain enzyme deficiency. And she also knew that tissue samples from men with prostate cancer had been found to harbor a retrovirus called XMRV, for xenotropic murine leukemia virus-related virus. She began working part time with the institute, and by the fall of 2006, the Whittemores had hired her as research director. One of her first projects was to look for XMRV in blood samples from people with chronic fatigue syndrome and from healthy control subjects.
Many of the samples from syndrome patients 68 of 101, or 67 percent were infected, she and her colleagues reported in Science. Only 3.7 percent of the healthy controls carried the virus. XMRV, the scientists suggested, may cause or at least contribute to chronic fatigue syndrome. Further tests found the virus in 90 of the 101, Dr. Mikovits said.
XMRV is a mouse retrovirus, but “xenotropic” is applied because it can replicate in the cells of other animals. A spoiler alert right here is in order. Mikovits’ paper was ultimately retracted two years later, but at the time it was published in Science and breathlessly reported in articles in the mainstream media like the NYT article I’ve been quoting from and this other article.
How did the retraction occur? First, there were a number of criticisms of Mikovits’ methods, which were poorly described, and three independent studies trying to replicate her results failed to find evidence of XMRV in either healthy controls or CFS patients. A nine-center study was begun to try to confirm the preliminary results of Mikovits’ study. Coded replicate samples of blood from 15 subjects previously reported to be XMRV–positive (14 with CFS) and from 15 healthy donors previously determined to be negative for the viruses were distributed in a blinded fashion to nine laboratories, which performed assays designed to detect XMRV nucleic acid, virus replication, and antibody. The results were disappointing. Only two labs reported evidence of the virus, but replicate sample results disagreed and there was no difference in detection between CFS subjects and negative controls without CFS. Science published and editorial expression of concern, noting:
Since then, at least 10 studies conducted by other investigators and published elsewhere have reported a failure to detect XMRV in independent populations of CFS patients. In this issue, we are publishing two Reports that strongly support the growing view that the association between XMRV and CFS described by Lombardi et al. likely reflects contamination of laboratories and research reagents with the virus. In one Report, “Recombinant origin of the retrovirus XMRV” (2), T. Paprotka et al. trace the ancestry of XMRV and provide evidence that the virus originated when two mouse leukemia viruses underwent recombination during experimental passage of a human prostate tumor xenograft in mice in the 1990s. A combination of sequencing, phylogenetic, and probability analyses lead Paprotka et al. to conclude that laboratory contamination with XMRV produced by a cell line (22Rv1) derived from these early xenograft experiments is the most likely explanation for detection of the virus in patient samples. In the other Report, “No evidence of murine-like gammaretroviruses in CFS patients previously identified as XMRV-infected” (3), K. Knox et al. examined blood samples from 61 CFS patients from the same medical practice that had provided patient samples to Lombardi et al. Comprehensive assays by Knox et al. for viral nucleic acids, infectious virus, and virus-specific antibodies revealed no evidence of XMRV in any of the samples.
In other words, XMRV is almost certainly the result of a recombination event in the 1990s in different prostate cancer cell lines grown in immunodeficient mice. Mikovits almost certainly based her conclusion on her detection of a laboratory contaminant.
There’s more, though. Here’s an excerpt from the retraction notice:
In addition, there is evidence of poor quality control in a number of specific experiments in the Report. Figure 1, table S1, and fig. S2 have been retracted by the authors (3). In response to concerns expressed about Fig. 2C [summarized in (4)], the authors acknowledged to Science that they omitted important information from the legend of this figure panel. Specifically, they failed to indicate that the CFS patient–derived peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) shown in Fig. 2C had been treated with azacytidine as well as phytohemagglutinin and interleukin-2. This was in contrast to the CFS samples shown in Figs. 2A and 2B, which had not been treated with azacytidine.
Why is this important? Azacytidine is a chemical that activates retroviruses, which means that the CFS-derived cells were treated with a chemical to bring out their retroviruses while the control cells were not. That’s scientific fraud, as far as I’m concerned.
That’s the end of the story from a scientific standpoint, but only the beginning of the story of the conspiracy theory. I also note that the antivaccine movement jumped on the XMRV story when antivax propagandist (at the time) David Kirby linked XMRV to autism in an evidence-free speculative article published shortly after Mikovits’ paper in 2009, Is Autism Associated with a Viral Infection? (now deleted but preserved, thanks to the almighty Wayback Machine). In it, Mikovits speculated:
“On that note, if I might speculate a little bit,” she said, “This might even explain why vaccines would lead to autism in some children, because these viruses live and divide and grow in lymphocytes — the immune response cells, the B and the T cells. So when you give a vaccine, you send your B and T cells in your immune system into overdrive. That’s its job. Well, if you are harboring one virus, and you replicate it a whole bunch, you’ve now broken the balance between the immune response and the virus. So you have had the underlying virus, and then amplified it with that vaccine, and then set off the disease, such that your immune system could no longer control other infections, and created an immune deficiency.”
So there you have it – a possible explanation of regressive autism in a significant number of cases associated with immune system deregulation triggered by vaccination.
So Mikovits was antivaccine even back then.
A conspiracy theory is born
Early on in her interview for Plandemic, Mikovits describes being arrested and portrays it as a false arrest with no warrant and no search warrant for her house (there were warrants), carried out for no reason other than to silence her. Naturally, Willis leads with that part of the story, and, given the background I’ve related, you’re probably asking: What the heck is that all about? Unsurprisingly, after Mikovits’ Science paper was retracted, she was fired, although, oddly enough, for matter unrelated to her retracted paper. Then this happened:
A little more than 1 month after firing Mikovits, the Whittemore Peterson Institute for Neuro-Immune Disease (WPI) on 4 November filed suit against its former research director. According to WPI, after Mikovits was terminated on 29 September, she wrongfully removed laboratory notebooks and kept other proprietary information on her laptop and in flash drives and in a personal e-mail account. WPI, a nonprofit organization that’s based on the campus of the University of Nevada, Reno, also won a temporary restraining order that forbids Mikovits from “destroying, deleting, or altering” any of the related files or data.
Mikovits attorney, Lois Hart, said her client cannot speak to the media about the case, but she strongly denies any wrongdoing. In an e-mail to ScienceInsider, Hart stressed that “Dr. Mikovits’ integrity goes to the bone.”
Basically, the Whittemore-Peterson Institute reported that a number of Mikovits’ lab notebooks were found to be missing after she had been terminated, pointing out that she had the only key to the locked desk in which they were stored. (Her contract stipulated that lab notebooks and data had to remain with the institute if she ever left her job, a near-universal clause in such employment contracts with corporations and nonprofits doing research.) Mikovits’s attorney countered that several people had keys to her office and laboratory, although, conspicuously, I never saw any mention of anyone else having a key to the desk. A few days later, Mikovits was arrested for theft. Ultimately, criminal charges were dismissed. Complicating matter was the fact that the judge initially overseeing the civil case had received campaign donations from WPI co-founder Harvey Whittemore, who himself has been criminally charged with making illegal campaign contributions to a federal official.
Conveniently, Willis and Mikovits leave out some key information. For instance, a research assistant named Max Pfost, who was also rooming in Mikovits’ home, provided a sworn affidavit detailing his complicity in stealing the notebooks and delivering them to Dr. Mikovits. This affidavit was the basis for the warrants to search her home and arrest her. It’s worth reading in full. Basically, he stated that Mikovits instructed him to retrieve the notebooks and drives and that he did. Another researcher named Amanda McKenzie also provided a sworn affidavit in which she attests that Mikovits asked her to remove laboratory samples and other materials and deliver them to one of her co-authors but that she declined.
Also, contrary to Mikovits’ claim in Plandemic that she was arrested without warrant, jailed without charges, there were warrants issued by the University of Nevada at Reno Police Department on November 17, 2011. Dr. Mikovits was arrested at her home on November 18, 2011 and charged with two felonies: (1) possession of stolen property and (2) unlawful taking of computer data, equipment, supplies, or other computer related property. She was held without bail for 5 days while awaiting arraignment and a hearing on extradition to Nevada on felony charges after the laboratory notebooks, computer, and other items belonging to WPI were recovered from her home following the search. Criminal charges were later dismissed without prejudice pending the outcome of the civil trial against Dr. Mikovits for losses related to the stolen notebooks.
That’s a very different story than the one told in Plandemic! Even so, thus was born a conspiracy theory, one that Mikovits has been milking for all it’s worth since at least 2011. Now, with the COVID-19 pandemic in full swing, Mikovits has found a new (and lucrative) road to prominence, after having posted a video three weeks ago saying that we don’t need a coronavirus vaccine, after having gotten involved in the “Fire Fauci campaign” after claiming that Dr. Fauci had sabotaged her XMRV research:
In the same video, Mikovits rejected the notion of wearing a mask, since, she claimed, the coronavirus is actually secretly caused by a bad strain of flu shot that was circulating between 2013 and 2015. Masks will help “activate” the virus and reinfect a mask-wearer over and over, she claimed.
“Wearing a mask will kill more people than—this virus is not coughed through the air from healthy people, who are almost certainly immune, as they’ve almost certainly been infected over the last four or five years,” Mikovits said.
(NOTE ADDED 5/8/2020: Ironically, in a video full of COVID-19 misinformation, it was the ridiculous claim that wearing a mask will kill more people than the virus that got the Plandemic video yanked from YouTube and Facebook.)
Amusingly, that bit about the flu vaccine was so nonsensical that even David Kirby, an antivaccine propagandist whose mention is a real blast from the past on this blog, saw through it and posted this on Facebook:
With this background, Mikovits’ claims in the Plandemic video start to make more sense as a persecution complex and misinformation based on conspiracy theories. Also, as she’s selling her new book, Plague of Corruption: Restoring Faith in the Promise of Science, and this video is a perfect advertisement for it. You can tell just how far into tinfoil hat territory this book must plunge by the fact that she co-wrote it with Kent Heckenlively, a man known for Walter Mitty-like fantasies of heroic action against evil purveyors of vaccines, and that the book’s foreword was written by antivaccine leader Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., who has been promoting the book and her conspiracy theory about Anthony Fauci on his Children’s Health Defense website.
She fits right in, too. After Willis notes that “apparently their attempt to silence you has failed” and asks how she can have the “confidence” to “name names” and “call out these dark forces” without fearing for her life, her response tells me how far down the rabbit hole she’s gone:
Because if we don’t stop this now, we can not only forget our republic and our freedom, but we can forget humanity because we’ll be killed by this agenda.
I laughed out loud again.
At this point, Mikovits weaves a conspiracy theory in which Dr. Fauci ordered a coverup of her results, claiming that “everyone was paid off” with “millions of dollars of funding” from Anthony Fauci through the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID). Her story is that Dr. Fauci called Dr. Ruscetti’s laboratory when he was out of the country and demanded that she give him a copy of the paper Dr. Ruscetti had just submitted documenting the detection of HIV in the saliva and blood of AIDS patients from Luc Montagnier’s group in France. It was a confirmatory study. She then claimed that Fauci screamed at her to give him the paper. Why would Fauci do that? She claims that Fauci had been working with Robert Gallo and that he held up the publication of Ruscetti’s paper for several months to allow Robert Gallo to publish his own paper.
As you might imagine, the story sounds very fishy. First of all, there were telephones back then. Making a trans-Atlantic phone call was a possibility! Yes, international calls were expensive in the 1980s, but people made them, especially for the government and corporations. There’s no reason why Fauci couldn’t have called Ruscetti, particularly given Mikovits claim that it was several weeks before he came back from overseas, to have Dr. Fauci browbeat him into giving it to him. There was even mail. So, why did Fauci supposedly do this, colluding with Robert Gallo and Robert Redfield, who’s now the Director of the CDC? Money and patents, of course! And, of course, Mikovits brings in Bill Gates, with his advocacy of vaccines, because antivax grifters gonna grift.
Mikovits’ story doesn’t make sense from a timeline perspective, either. While it is true that Robert Gallo falsely took credit for discovering the AIDS virus in 1984, when the virus had actually been discovered at the Pasteur Institute in 1983, and it was those samples Gallo had been testing. It’s also true that Gallo worked with Mikovits’ boss Dr. Ruscetti to make some major discoveries in the field of retroviruses in the 1980, the same year that Mikovits graduated from college and took a job at the National Cancer Institute in Frank Ruscetti’s lab.
As Zachariah Wiedeman asks about Mikovits’ story:
Are we to believe that somehow, fresh out of college, sometime between 1980 and 1983 she [Mikovits] was at the forefront of groundbreaking work to isolate and confirm HIV, and that she actually discovered it, then Gallo stole the credit from her, but he also simultaneously stole the credit from the Pasteur Institute where he obtained his sample, that he didn’t actually have, because Mikovits had it. What, the what??
Also, at the time, Dr. Fauci was Chief of the Laboratory of Immunoregulation at the National Institute of Health. (He wasn’t appointed director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease until 1984.) Just from Dr. Fauci’s role at the NIH during the time period, Mikovits’ story makes no sense. It defies plausibility that Dr. Fauci would even ask a laboratory technician, fresh out of college, for her boss’ unpublished manuscript, much less that he would browbeat her and yell at her when she “bravely” refused. It’s highly unlikely that Mikovits even had access to the manuscript!
Towards the middle of the video, Willis asks Mikovits if she’s antivaccine, which, of course, she denies, because of course she does. (Nearly all antivaxxers deny that they’re antivax.) After characterizing vaccines as an “immune therapy,” she then goes on to buying into the conspiracy that SARS-CoV-2 (the coronavirus that causes COVID-19) was “manipulated and studied” in a laboratory and then escaped. She then makes the utterly nonsensical claim that if SARS-CoV-2 had evolved naturally it would have taken 800 years. (Seriously, she’s a virologist?) Her difference is that she claims that the virus must have been released somehow between Fort Detrick and the Wuhan laboratory. She even claimed that in 1999 she worked at Fort Detrick in order to “teach Ebola how to infect human cells,” further claiming that Ebola couldn’t infect human cells until it had been “taught” how to do it. Apparently Ebola came from a lab too. (Never mind that Ebola was first reported in humans in 1976.)
Indeed, the amount of nonsense, misinformation, disinformation, and conspiracy mongering in Mikovits’ response to questions is truly epic. She likens COVID-19 infection to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which is even more nonsensical. She agrees with the conspiracy theory that doctors are being pushed to misclassify deaths due to other causes as due to COVID-19. Willis even included a clip of Dr. Dan Erickson making that claim. You might recall that he and Dr. Artin Massihi made a misinformation-laden video claiming that COVID-19 prevalence was so much higher than estimated and using that estimate to claim that COVID-19 is actually five times less lethal than seasonal flu, a claim that shows up later in Plandemic as well. I emphasize that, in reality, the case and death count from COVID-19 is grossly underestimated. Why the pressure? Because government reimbursement is higher for a diagnosis of COVID-19, apparently.
Basically, all the common conspiracy theories about COVID-19 make an appearance, including the claim that it was the flu vaccine that got it started, but with a spin. Mikovits claims that Italy was hit so hard because the virus for the flu vaccine it used was grown in dog cells and dog cells have a lot of coronavirus, the claim that David Kirby mocked in the Facebook post I quoted above. She also cites the bogus claim that the flu vaccine increases your chance of getting COVID-19 by 36%. It doesn’t. Unsurprisingly, hydroxychloroquine makes an appearance, too, because of course it does. Like so many hydroxychloroquine conspiracy theorists do, Willis and Mikovits portray the drug as a powerful treatment for COVID-19 that “they” don’t want you to know about, even though hydroxychloroquine probably doesn’t work. Mikovits is all-in with conspiracy theories about it, though.
Mark and Chris Hoofnagle coined a term “crank magnetism,” in which a person who believes in one form of pseudoscience or one conspiracy theory will tend to believe in multiple pseudoscientific beliefs and conspiracy theories. When, late in the video, Mikovits asks why we’re closing beaches because there are “healing microbes in the sand,” I had to stop. There’s just so much idiocy I can tolerate. I’ll give Mikovits credit, though. She some how instinctively knew just how to make her story go viral by latching on to the right wing campaign to smear Dr. Fauci. As a result, her book is currently #1 on Amazon.
Sadly, as Judy Mikovits demonstrates, the COVID-19 pandemic is drawing cranks and conspiracy theorists like it moths to a light. Chief among them are antivax grifters like Judy Mikovits. She’s so wrong she’s not even wrong, and she’s gone full conspiracy theorist, taking advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to be reborn as a COVID-19 crank, grifting with her book and a “doctor education” company. Sadly, she’s not alone.
NOTE: This post was updated and revised on May 8, 2020. Also, a followup post discussing what Mikki Willis left out of Plandemic about Judy Mikovits’ even wilder conspiracy theories is here, for your edification.