BY SAM FIELDS
I admit that watching TV pitchman Kevin Trudeau was a secret pleasure.
The guy could sell suntan lotion on the dark side of the moon.
Unfortunately, I won’t be able to indulge myself for the next decade unless Federal Corrections starts a cable channel.
In case you have never owned a television, let me introduce you to this scoundrel, grifter, conman, etc., who has been hawking books on weight loss, medical cures, wiping out debts and everything else that ails you.
His common ploy was the titles. It was diets, debt cure or medical miracles: “WHAT THEY DON”T WANT YOU TO KNOW”.
“They,” of course, was the Big Government and Big Business.
Mostly, he was talking about The Federal Trade Commission and The Food and Drug Administration working in cahoots with Big Pharma, Big Banks and Big Food. His books topped The NY Times bestseller list for months.
He was a guy tapping into Tea Party populism ten years before The Tea Party movement existed.
In 2004 the FTC obtained an injunction against false claims in his infomercials about weight loss.
In 2012 he was arrested for Criminal Contempt alleging over 32,000 violations of the injunction for continuing his weight loss informercials for his book: “The Weight Loss Cure ‘They’ Don’t Want You to Know About.” He sold $39 million worth of the book.
On November 17, 2013, Trudeau was convicted.
Trudeau’s weight-loss book instructs readers to take a meager 500-calorie-a-day diet and hormone treatments. According to the federal judge at his trial, Trudeau’s infomercials misrepresented the book’s diet as “a simple, no hunger … diet-free method of losing weight.”
On March 17, 2014, he was sentenced to 10 years in the Federal hoosegow.
His defense was simple. He had a First Amendment right to publish and hawk his ideas no matter how much the government didn’t like them.
He was not selling dangerous products. He was not selling any products. He was selling only his ideas that he argued were constitutionally protected speech.
He made two mistakes. First, he only claimed the “press” and “speech” clauses of the First Amendment. He should have reorganized himself as a church and added the “free exercise “of religion clause to his defense.
Faith healers, like Oral Roberts, Peter Popoff, Pat Robertson and the scammers organizing trips to Lourdes, France, make far more outrageous and dangerous medical claims than anything Kevin Trudeau ever promoted. They put one hand on your head, and then lie that your cancer, diabetes, arthritis, etc. is gone. The whole time they have their other hand in your wallet.
The public record documents multiple child deaths caused by parents who bought into Mary Baker Eddy and her Christian Science snake oil message to pray away diabetes and a host of other easily cured or controlled illnesses. She never did a day in jail.
Trudeau’s other mistake was that he challenged the government. In particular, he went after the FTC and the FDA. He pointed at the revolving doors for officials who leave their government jobs to make a fortune with the companies they once regulated.
At its core, our government treated him no differently than Putin and every Third World country treats those who challenge power.
Trudeau may be the only person who was banned from going on television with infomercials. He wasn’t selling medicines, phony investments or non-existent real estate. His infomercials sold what the government deemed were bad ideas.
Is it really the role of government to quash ideas?
Sometimes the difference between a good idea and a bad idea is only a matter of dates.
In 1982, two Australian doctors, Barry Marshall and Robin Warren, outrageously claimed ulcers were not from stress and spicy foods, but, were a bacterial infection that could be cured with antibiotics. They took a lot of heat from the profession and the government. In 2005, Warren and Marshall got the Nobel Prize for Medicine.
In 1949, Antonio Egas Moniz shared the Nobel Prize of Medicine for developing a procedure for the Pre-Frontal Lobotomy. I’m pretty sure, if the Nobel Committee could borrow Mr. Peabody’s “Way Back Machine”, they would undo that award.
Don’t let me get started about psychoanalysis, alchemy and leeches that were all the rage for a hundred or more years.
Personally, I don’t think the universe has enough dates left to prove that Kevin Trudeau’s ideas were right.
However, I don’t need the government to protect me from his ideas. I can figure it out for myself.