America’s Frontline Doctors and Project Veritas launched a video series devoted to Covid-19 disinformation.

By Micah Lee

THE ANTI-VACCINE propaganda group America’s Frontline Doctors has partnered with Project Veritas, the far-right group known for deceptively editing videos of its undercover operations, on a video series called “Doc Tracy: Physician Investigator.” The series appears to be aimed at harassing medical regulators and spreading Covid-19 pandemic disinformation.

After publication, both AFLD and Project Veritas disputed that they are working together, despite the fact that “Christian Hartsock, Project Veritas” is credited in the series trailer as a “consulting producer” and Project Veritas is prominently mentioned in promotional materials. An email received by The Intercept after signing up for a Doc Tracy promotions list stated: “Thank you for joining me and my fellow detectors on the Project Veritas Muckraker tour.”

The series stars Christopher Rake, a former anesthesiologist at UCLA Health. “I’m willing to lose everything — job, paycheck, freedom, even my life for this cause,” he said in a video he recorded of himself as UCLA staff escorted him out of the medical facility where he worked in October for refusing to take the Covid-19 vaccine. He’s the founder of the anti-vaccine group Citizens United for Freedom. In a crowdfunding campaign for his group, he wrote, “I’m a physician, a follower of Jesus, and a patriot who lost his job because I stood up for freedom.”

A trailer for the “Doc Tracy” video series — which the group released on January 29 to its more than 400,000 Twitter followers, its over 200,000 Telegram channel subscribers, and on its email newsletter — includes a few seconds of Kristina Lawson, president of California’s medical board, being accosted in a parking garage. On December 6, people who identified themselves as members of AFLDS followed and intimidated Lawson. In interviews and on a Twitter thread, Lawson said the group parked an SUV at the end of her driveway in Walnut Creek, California, flew a drone over her house, watched her children drive to school, and then followed her to work. When she left work, Lawson said, four men “ambushed” her in a dark parking garage with cameras, saying they wanted to interview her.

AFLDS’s founder, Dr. Simone Gold, who has reached a plea agreement for her role in the deadly January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, is a licensed medical doctor in the state of California. In September, The Intercept revealed that AFLDS works with a network of telehealth companies to rake in millions of dollars selling hydroxychloroquine, ivermectin, and online consultations to Covid-19 vaccine skeptics. Most doctors, as well as the Food and Drug Administration, National Institutes of Health, American Medical Association, and World Health Organization, advise against prescribing these two medicines to treat or prevent Covid-19. Because of Gold’s work with AFLDS spreading disinformation about the vaccine’s safety and efficacy and selling unproven treatments for Covid-19, the state medical board has been under pressure by other medical doctors and pro-science activists to strip her of her license. The Intercept confirmed that the board is actively investigating Gold. AFLDS and Project Veritas did not respond to requests for comment.

The AFLDS website has a form to sign up for updates about the new “Doc Tracy” video series, which it says will be released this month. The form includes the question, “Are you a social media influencer (any size) and would you like to be involved (paid or unpaid) in promoting Doc Tracy?”

After signing up for updates, the website sends an automated email that says, “Thank you for joining me and my fellow fraud detectors on the Project Veritas Muckraker Tour. What an event!” The email says the video series will ask “tough questions from people who really don’t want to answer them” and that “They’re going to cry crocodile tears like Kristina Lawson did.”

doc-tracy-email

Automated email sent after signing up for updates about the Doc Tracy video series.

Image: The Intercept

The trailer lists “Christian Hartsock, Project Veritas” as a consulting producer. Hartsock is a “senior investigative reporter” for Project Veritas. On February 1, just after promoting the trailer for the video series, Gold posted to Twitter and Telegram, “What a joy and an honor to join Project Veritas this week in the freedom state of Florida.”

The post includes a photo of Gold and her colleague John Strand — a professional model and actor who hosts short “fake news” segments for AFLDS and who has also been charged in the January 6 riot at the Capitol — standing with Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla. Gaetz is currently under federal investigation for allegedly sex trafficking a 17-year-old girl.

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Photo of Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Simone Gold, and John Strand, posted to AFLDS social media accounts.

Photo: AFLDS

Gold and Gaetz were likely attending an event related to the launch of Project Veritas founder James O’Keefe’s new book, “American Muckraker.” O’Keefe is calling his book tour the “Project Veritas Muckraker Tour.”

The trailer for the new AFLDS video series includes images of discredited scientist Dr. Robert Malone and his suspended Twitter account, while a voiceover says, “In a time where stating the facts is made illegal.”

On December 31, Malone was a guest on “The Joe Rogan Experience,” the $100 million Spotify podcast, where he used his credentials as an early researcher on mRNA gene transfer techniques to promote disinformation about Covid-19 vaccines. He also compared Covid-19 vaccination efforts in the U.S. to Germany when the Nazi Party rose to power.

In response to the episode, over 1,300 doctors, nurses, scientists, and professors signed an open letter to Spotify demanding that the company “immediately establish a clear and public policy to moderate misinformation on its platform.” This letter sparked a backlash against Spotify, with major artists including Neil Young and Joni Mitchell boycotting the platform and users canceling their accounts en masse.

Update: February 17, 2022

After publication, Project Veritas and AFLDS both denied that they were working together, despite the fact that the video trailer listed a Project Veritas staffer as a consulting producer and promotional materials prominently mentioned Project Veritas. The Intercept gave both AFLDS and Project Veritas ample opportunity to provide comments before publication, but neither group responded to our inquiries.

Winston Smith from Project Veritas provided the following statement: “The references to Project Veritas in America Frontline Doctors’ production was neither done with Project Veritas’ knowledge or approval. Project Veritas was not involved in the creation and production of Doc Tracy. Christian Hartsock is not a credited producer. This error is being corrected. Mr. Hartsock has had conversations with AFD about journalism, but his involvement goes no further.”

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