- 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 Sunday on a 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 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 warned against using ivermectin to treat and prevent Covid infections.
Guo on Thursday equated vaccinating children with murder. "Please do not take your children to get vaccinated anymore. It is not about getting a shot that simple but equivalent to murder," he said in a translated video post on social media platform Gettr. "Those who were vaccinated might face an unpredicted severe consequence."
The CDC recommends that people ages 12 and up 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 persuade 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 by 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 [Chinese Communist Party] virus. These few medicines will eradicate the virus," Guo said during his Sunday 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 respond to a request for comment after CNBC sent the company a note through its feedback portal.
Despite warnings from health officials, people who oppose Covid vaccines have turned to ivermectin, which is often used as a deworming 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, after the FDA came out against the use of ivermectin to treat Covid, accused the agency of "killing tens of thousands of Americans with that statement."
"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 watchdog Media Matters said other conservative personalities on Fox News have 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 virus, said Mr. Miles Guo." Miles Guo is one of Guo's aliases, as is Miles Kwok. The translation on the GNews website shows a picture of an artemisinin capsule container with text saying, "Covid-19 Here Comes the Cure — Artemisinin."
"Mr. Miles Guo affirmed that Artemisinin, discovered and extracted by Nobel laureate Tu Youyou, is more than 99% effective in curing the CCP virus," the translation says. "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 WHO has said artemisinin, which is an antimalaria drug derived from the artemisia plant, will be tested on hospitalized Covid patients. The WHO said there has yet to be proof of artemisia-derived products being effective in treating Covid-19, the BBC reported.
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, which is 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.
In a Gettr video post on Saturday, Guo 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," a translation of his post said. "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 in his video post Thursday 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 1 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 1 in 10,000.