House Report: Trump Advisor Plotted With ‘Known Extremists’ to Promote Bogus COVID-19 Drug

A discredited advisor to former United States President Donald Trump “exerted inappropriate pressure” on federal officials to promote a similarly discredited treatment for COVID-19, a House committee said in a report released on August 24 2022.

The latest report by the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis accused Peter Navarro of working with “known extremists and prolific conspiracists” to influence the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) to promote hydroxychloroquine as a cure for the virus, while also being part of a plot to launch a politically-motivated investigation against a panel led by Dr. Anthony Fauci.

Fact Check

Claim: Trump advisor plotted with extremists to promote bogus COVID-19 drug

Description: The House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis released a report accusing Peter Navarro, advisor to former U.S. President Donald Trump, of working with known extremists and conspirators to influence the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) to promote hydroxychloroquine as a cure for COVID-19, while also being part of a plot to launch a politically-motivated investigation against a panel led by Dr. Anthony Fauci.

Rating: True

Rating Explanation: The claim is supported by a report from the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, which was published with various details about Navarro’s involvement with known extremists to promote the discredited treatment, hydroxychloroquine, for COVID-19 and to launch an investigation against Dr. Fauci.

“These assaults on our nation’s public health institutions undermined the nation’s coronavirus response—and are precisely why we must never again settle for leaders who prioritize politics over keeping Americans safe,” committee chair Rep. James Clyburn said in a statement accompanying the report.

The report, citing an interview with former FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn, said that Navarro worked alongside virologist Dr. Steven Hatfill to engage with “known extremists and prolific conspiracists,” identifying former White House “strategist” and right-wing nationalist Steve Bannon, as well as the disreputable Jerome Corsi and the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS), a right-wing activist group, to drum up support for hydroxychloroquine. The drug has been promoted by several fringe medical providers despite no evidence it could treat COVID-19.

The alleged effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine was debunked even further in September 2022, when the international news site The Local reported that authorities in France had moved to open a criminal investigation into the Versailles-based Méditerranée Infection Foundation (IHU) in connection with research by its former director, microbiologist Didier Raoult.

The country’s Minister of Higher Education and Research Sylvie Retailleau, referred the matter for prosecution after discovering what was described as “severe malfunctions” at the facility. Raoult was also accused in a disciplinary hearing in November 2021 of committing ethical breaches in a March 2020 paper promoting the anti-malarial drug.

Corsi, an ally of right-wing operative Roger Stone, has a long history of pushing weaponized disinformation, as the Washington Post has reported:

On his YouTube channel and in appearances on Fox, he is ungoverned by principles of fact and accuracy. He is a 9/11 truther and an early critic of George Soros, the Holocaust survivor and liberal philanthropist whose name has become a catchword for far-right innuendo about Jews, immigration and national security. He has professed his belief in the QAnon conspiracy theory, citing posts on feverish online message boards as he quests to decipher the coded meaning of a pen on Trump’s desk.

The AAPS, first organized in 1943, has become known for its anti-vaccination views and opposition to government involvement of any sort in healthcare. As The Atlantic reported in February 2020, it has also propagated its own share of conspiracy theories:

In 2015, after measles broke out at Disneyland, AAPS put out a press release questioning the safety of vaccines. The group has suggested that women who have abortions are at a higher risk of breast cancer, though mainstream scientists say this is false. In 2008, an article on AAPS’s website suggested that President Barack Obama was covertly hypnotizing people with his speeches, and that this might explain why Jews voted for him. AAPS’s journal, the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons, has published articles raising doubts that HIV causes AIDS and questioning the wisdom of urging people to quit smoking, according to the Louisville Courier Journal.

According to the reports, emails obtained by the committee also showed that in August 2020, Hatfill called for “an outside panel” to lay the groundwork for a federal probe against an FDA advisory panel led by Fauci.

“That would give ammunition for [then-Attorney General Bill Barr] to start an investigation of the Fauci Panel — their emails and other communications,” Hatfill wrote in one email. “That would shut them up for a bit.” In another email a month later, Hatfill told Navarro, “You really need to consider what is likely to happen over the next 2 months if this little idiot and his COVID treatment panel is not fired.”

The allegations against Navarro and Hatfill come two months after a separate report by the committee named another Trump administration official, Dr. Scott Atlas, as the point person for promoting “herd immunity” — another form of disinformation — as the White House response to the pandemic.

The committee’s latest report can be read in full here.

Update 9/7/2022, 1:51 p.m.: Updated to reflect a criminal investigation in France in connection with research promoting hydroxychloroquine by French microbiologist Didier Raoult. — ag