Friday, May 1, 2020

And the grift goes on...

Drawing by Tom Toles.

This peculiar but sober-sounding lede (story from Washington Post flagged by Jane Mayer)
Federal prosecutors are examining the communications of a New York family doctor who appears frequently on Fox News and has been in touch with the White House to tout an anti-malarial as a treatment for the novel coronavirus, according to people contacted as part of the inquiry.
conceals a snapshot, I think, that epitomizes the soul and the style of Trump World so tightly and so hilariously that I feel a need to try telling it, as WaPo doesn't seem to want to do, involving a mistake made by wingnut villain Jerome Corsi when he sent an email meant for Dr. Vladimir "Zev" Zelenko to federal prosecutor Aaron Zelinsky instead.

Dr. Zelenko, whose Orange County, New York clinics (don't know how many, but more than one) are located near the Hasidic colony of Kiryas Joel, is the "family doctor" in question. Early in March he found himself treating hundreds of coronavirus patients; 669, according to his claims, whom he started treating with a cocktail of hydroxychloroquine, zinc sulfate, and the antibiotic azithromycin (to guard against secondary bacterial infections). All of his patients, he says, 100%, survived without hospitalization, let alone ventilator use, and so on 23 March he posted a letter (under the auspices of the Paul Craig Roberts Institute of Political Economy) "to all medical professionals around the world", cc to President Trump and chief of staff Mark Meadows, with accompanying YouTube video, announcing this remarkable success.

It was being discussed on Sean Hannity's radio and TV shows that night and the video forwarded by Jim Hoft's Gateway Pundit website the next day (as  a "'potential' slap in the face to the CDC, the US media and Big Pharma which is developing a multibillion dollar vaccination program"),  Meadows called, Rudolph Giuliani talks to him, reportedly, sometimes more than once a day, and Trump, who had been pushing hydroxychloroquine as a Covid-19 cure at least since the 19 March press conference where he had told everybody what a "big fan" of the drug he was, was enthusiastic.

And another old friend from the Trump-Hannity-Giuliani axis was there too, the celebrated author Jerome Corsi, best remembered for his contribution to the swiftboating of the 2004 presidential campaign of John Kerry, most recently featured as Roger Stone's unindicted co-conspirator (my description, not the prosecutors') in coordinating between WikiLeaks and the Trump campaign in 2016, who just coincidentally has developed a business relationship with Zelenko in recent weeks:
Corsi said he was referred to Zelenko by another doctor also interested in covid-19 and hosted Zelenko for the first time on his podcast earlier this month.
Corsi’s website,, offers people the opportunity to schedule a virtual appointment with a doctor, by clicking on a button and inputting their name and address. It advertises a “low consult fee” of $59.95, as well as “Prescriptions Delivered Right to Your Door, Same Day!” through a partner.
The site claims to be linked with more than 625 health-care providers, spanning all 50 states. In a “Frequently Asked Questions” section, it says it is “designed to see and treat non-emergency type consultations,” though it lists “COVID-19” as one of many health problems its doctors can examine, along with constipation, allergies and the common cold.
But unfortunately Corsi sent an email discussing Zelenko's "FDA-approved randomized study of HCQ" (apparently properly telling him he couldn't call it FDA-approved unless the FDA approved it, which it has not done) to a different Z-address—that of Aaron Zelinksy, whose portfolio as a member of Robert Mueller's investigative team included investigating Corsi, and who just happens to be working on coronavirus fraud at the moment:
Zelinsky is tasked now with investigating coronavirus-related crimes in the Maryland U.S. attorney’s office, as part of a directive from U.S. Attorney General William P. Barr to prioritize such cases. The department already has charged a medley of fraudsters for peddling fake cures, selling personal protective equipment they didn’t actually have or running more complicated Medicare reimbursement schemes, and officials say tips are coming in droves.
And Zelinsky naturally got interested. So now it seems Corsi is under federal investigation again, and so is Dr. Zev. WaPo says it doesn't know how "serious" the investigation is, and I don't know either, obviously, though I'd like to know how he is suddenly running a randomized clinical drug trial when he has never done any research at all—his only discoverable publication is a memoir, Metamorphosis, answering the questions
How did an irreligious Russian-American young man become frum and create close ties with so many diverse Jewish communities? How do the many unique circumstances in his life provide him with the strength and willpower to overcome the challenges he has been handed, including a life-threatening disease?
(Frum is Yiddish for "pious", as in the name of former W. Bush speechwriter and current Atlantic editor David Frum as well as the Frankfurt School psychiatrist and philosopher Erich Fromm, who spelled it in German.)

Or rather if he is, and how Corsi, not to mention Giuliani, Hannity, and Emperor Trump (who has lauded many ongoing clinical trials of HCQ for Covid-19 without going into the specifics), might be engaged in it. Or where the elderly supply-side economist and Holocaust denier Paul Craig Roberts (a Reagan-era assistant secretary of the Treasury) fits in. So many questions, really! It's just a snapshot, as I was saying. But the weird blend of conspiratoriality, snake-oil hucksterism, and total ineptness—that misdirected email!—is so exactly what the Trump reign is about!

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