Chinese exile Guo Wengui uses misinformation network to push unproven drugs to treat Covid
- Wealthy Chinese exile Guo Wengui is using his online misinformation network to promote the use of unproven treatments for Covid.
- Guo as recently as last week pushed the drugs ivermectin and artemisinin as Covid treatments.
- He has also pushed conspiracy theories about vaccines developed by Pfizer and Moderna.
Guo Wengui, a wealthy businessman who fled China in 2014 and is linked to several high-profile far-right personalities in America, has been using his online network to promote unproven drugs to treat Covid-19 while spreading misinformation about the vaccines used to combat the disease.
As recently as a Sept. 5 livestream, Guo used his show on the online platform GTV to push ivermectin, which is used to treat parasitic infections, and malaria drug artemisinin as ways to battle the novel coronavirus.
Neither the Food and Drug Administration nor the World Health Organization have approved either drug for treating Covid. The FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have in fact warned against using ivermectin to treat and prevent Covid infections.
Guo declared in a recent social media that parents should not get their kids vaccinated and compared such a move to murder. "Please do not take your children to get vaccinated anymore. It is not about getting a shot that simple but equivalent to murder," Guo said in a translated September Gettr post. "Those who were vaccinated might face an unpredicted severe consequence."
The CDC recommends that people ages 12 and up to get a Covid vaccine, which has been shown to be highly effective in cutting the chances of hospitalization and reducing the spread of the disease. Authorities are expected to approve the use of the vaccine for younger children later this year.
GTV, which routinely features Guo himself, has been described by researchers at Graphika as part of the businessman's larger media empire and misinformation network.
Guo is among a group of mainly conservative voices who are pushing ivermectin and other unauthorized Covid treatments as President Joe Biden's administration and state governments struggle to convince more Americans to get vaccinated. Sixty-two percent of people 12 and up are fully vaccinated in the U.S., according to CDC data.
NBC News reported that a pro-Trump telemedicine website and right-leaning organizations have been some of the biggest purveyors of false information regarding unproven coronavirus treatments.
Guo has been close to former Trump White House chief strategist Steve Bannon for years. A foundation linked to Guo recently hosted an event that featured remarks Bannon and others tied to former President Donald Trump, including lawyer and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former national security advisor Michael Flynn and MyPillow CEO and conspiracy theorist Mike Lindell.
Guo fled China in 2014 in anticipation of corruption charges. After Guo criticized China's leaders, warrants were reportedly issued for his arrest on charges that included corruption and bribery. Guo has denied the charges. He has since been sued by investors in GTV. His attorneys have called the plaintiffs' accusations "unfounded."
"Remember, artemisinin, ivermectin, dexamethasone, oxytetracycline, hydroxychloroquine, and zinc are the necessary medicines to fight the CCP virus. These few medicines will eradicate the virus," Guo said during his Sept. 5 episode on GTV, according to an official translation of the broadcast found on the affiliated GNews website. "Also, artemisinin is effective for those who have had one shot of the vaccine, but not the second or third shot," he added.
That GTV stream has racked up over 7 million views. GTV did not return a request for comment after CNBC sent the company a note through their feedback portal.
Despite warnings from health officials, people who oppose Covid vaccines have turned to ivermectin, which is often used as a de-worming medication for horses, although it can also be used to treat parasitic infections in humans.
The hugely popular podcast host Joe Rogan, who has been accused by federal health officials of pushing vaccine misinformation, announced last week he came down with the virus and had been using ivermectin, among other items, to treat his sickness.
"The FDA has not authorized or approved ivermectin for the treatment or prevention of COVID-19 in people or animals. Ivermectin has not been shown to be safe or effective for these indications," the FDA recently said in a statement. "There's a lot of misinformation around, and you may have heard that it's okay to take large doses of ivermectin. It is not okay."
Beyond Guo and Rogan, others have pushed ivermectin to Covid patients. Conservative radio host Dennis Prager said on his podcast in late July that he used ivermectin as a prophylaxis and accused the FDA of "killing tens of thousand of Americans with that statement" after they came out against the use of ivermectin to treat Covid.
"I put it to you pretty starkly. Either the FDA is misleading you, or I'm misleading you," Prager told his audience. The progressive media watchdogs Media Matters claimed that conservative personalities on Fox News have also hyped the use of ivermectin.
Guo has also focused on artemisinin in his recent episodes.
A translation of Guo's live broadcast from Aug. 30 has a headline that says "artemisinin is the antidote for CCP [Chinese Communist Party] virus, said Mr. Miles Guo." (Miles Guo is one of Guo's aliases, along with Miles Kwok.) The translation, which is also located on the affiliated GNews website, shows a picture of artemisinin capsule container with the above text saying "here comes the cure."
The official translation reads: "Mr. Miles Guo affirmed that Artemisinin, discovered and extracted by Nobel laureate Tu Youyou, is more than 99% effective in curing the CCP virus. He also reiterated again that all chaptors must stock up on the Ivermectin, Azithromycin, and Oxytetracycline." The Aug. 30 livestream had 6 million views.
The World Health Organization has said artemisinin, which is a antimalaria drug, is going to be tested on hospitalized Covid patients. The BBC reported that the WHO explained that there has yet to be proof of artemisia-derived products being effective in treating Covid-19.
Guo's campaign to push ivermectin and artemisinin amounts to the latest example of his misinformation tactics, according to new research from Graphika.
"In promoting artemisinin, Guo and his media network are relying on tactics Graphika and the Virality Project have observed in the amplification of other unproven Covid-19 treatments," the researchers say in a blog post. "These include ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine, both of which are being promoted by Guo's network alongside artemisinin."
Translations of Guo's posts on Gettr, a social media company run by Trump advisor Jason Miller, show that the Chinese businessman has also used that medium to push similar concepts about unproven Covid treatments. Miller has said Gettr is funded in part by a foundation tied to Guo.
A translation of Guo's Gettr video post from Sept. 4, the Chinese businessman repeatedly touts artemisinin and ivermectin as a Covid treatment.
"Artemisinin is the best, and it definitely works for those who have been vaccinated with the first shot," he said at the time. "Ivermectin is almost 100% effective so far. All patients who have used it are healed," Guo later adds in the post. He made similar claims during a Sept. 2 video posting on Gettr.
As for the likelihood of getting Covid after receiving a vaccine, data reported by The New York Times gives the odds at about one in 5,000 per day. That's based on information from Utah, Virginia and a county in Washington state. For regions with higher vaccination rates, such as the Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco areas, the Times data puts the odds at one in 10,000.
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