It’s been a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad March for rabidly pro-Trump televangelist Jim Bakker. Last week, New York state attorney general Letitia James demanded that Bakker stop billing a “silver solution” as a cure for coronavirus. On Monday, the Federal Trade Commission and Food and Drug Administration demanded that he take his silver goo off the market. All things considered, Bakker hasn’t been in this much hot water since his salad days in the 1980s, when he was the stereotype of the televangelist who tried to screw people over in the name of the Lord.
Well, that water just got even hotter. His home state’s attorney general is taking him to court for trying to screw over people looking for protection from the coronavirus scourge.
On Tuesday morning, the Springfield News-Leader detonated a bombshell–Missouri state attorney general Eric Schmitt is suing Bakker in hopes of getting Bakker’s “silver sol” off the shelves and off the Web. Schmitt spokesman Chris Nuelle told the News-Leader that his boss was going to court “to stop (Bakker) from selling that Coronavirus ‘cure.'”
The lawsuit comes just 24 hours after Schmitt began a major public relations offensive against coronavirus scams. You would think that given the legal and regulatory pressure he’s facing, Bakker would have paid particular attention to this. After all, ever since returning to television in 2003, Bakker has been based out of the Ozarks. He currently hosts his show from a complex in Blue Eye, near Branson.
But apparently he didn’t. And now he may have to answer for it in a Missouri court. Schmitt formally filed the suit on Tuesday afternoon in Stone County. It charges Bakker and his company, Morningside Productions, with violating the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act by billing his silver solution as a cure for coronavirus.
It cites the February 12 edition of “The Jim Bakker Show,” on which Bakker and so-called naturopathic doctor Sherrill Sellman claimed Bakker’s silver solution could wipe out all traces of coronavirus from the body in mere hours. People for the American Way’s Right Wing Watch got a clip.
It took a few weeks, but this clip directly led to New York, the FDA, the FTC, and now Missouri giving Bakker the hairy eyeball.
In a press release, Schmitt stated in no uncertain terms that Bakker’s silver goo “cannot cure or treat coronavirus.” He wants a judge to slap Bakker with a restraining order and permanent injunction against billing this snake oil as a cure for coronavirus.
Most people who have two state attorneys general and two federal regulatory agencies breathing down their necks would at least make some effort to comply. Not Bakker. If you go to Bakker’s Website, you’ll see that he’s still openly and shamelessly hawking silver solution at the very front of the page.
A perusal of Tuesday’s “show offers” reveals a smorgasbord of silver solution packages. As I write this on Tuesday night, they’re still available. One has to wonder–are Bakker’s lawyers really bad, really frustrated, or really subservient? If he still has this up for sale, he’s effectively telling his pursuers, “Screw you.”
Bakker has maintained for the better part of two decades that the federal government was out to get him when he was packed off to prison in 1989. But if he peddles that line now, it won’t work. You see, Schmitt is a Republican. Moreover, he has conservative street cred; he hasn’t been too fond of recent court decisions that expand LGBT rights.
Contrast this with three decades earlier, when federal investigations revealed that Bakker misused millions of dollars in ministry funds. Reportedly, the White House was cool toward turning the screw on Bakker out of fear of angering their fundie supporters. Now the religious right has even more influence over the GOP, especially so in Missouri. Schmitt almost certainly knows this, so he deserves credit for having the guts to expose Bakker as the snake oil peddler that he is.
In light of this, if Bakker tries to claim that the Democrats and the deep state are trying to screw him, how is he going to explain that a conservative Republican attorney general is threatening to increase his potential legal hurt? If it wasn’t already clear, this episode has proven that Bakker is as big of a grifter as he was in the 1980s.
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