America's Frontline Doctors
America's Frontline Doctors (AFLDS) is an American right-wing political organization known for spreading misinformation about the COVID-19 pandemic. It has promoted alleged and unapproved treatments for COVID-19, and opposition to COVID-19 vaccines.
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AFLDS has ties to Tea Party Patriots co-founder Jenny Beth Martin, and made its first public appearance in July 2020 via a "white coat summit" in front of the United States Supreme Court Building. The public-facing leader of the group is Simone Gold; prior to the first appearance of AFLDS, she had led a Martin-organized coalition of doctors in support of in-person schooling.
Formation and precursorsEdit
Although it is described by its founders as a "grassroots" organization, America's Frontline Doctors has a connection to the Council for National Policy (CNP)—a conservative advocacy and networking group, and the Tea Party Patriots.
In opposition to measures to control the COVID-19 pandemic such as business closures and lockdowns, the CNP formed a coalition in late-April 2020 known as "Save Our Country". The group's leadership included FreedomWorks' Adam Brandon, Tea Party Patriots co-founder Jenny Beth Martin, Stephen Moore, and Lisa Nelson of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). In a press release announcing the coalition, Martin argued that "the long-term consequences of a prolonged societal shutdown outweigh the damage done by the virus itself. As part of the coalition, FreedomWorks and the Tea Party Patriots promoted anti-lockdown protests.
In May 2020, a conference call by the CNP's lobbying arm was leaked by the Center for Media and Democracy, which included CNP president William Walton, Mercedes Schlapp—a senior advisor for Donald Trump's 2020 re-election campaign, and Nancy Schulze—wife of retired congressman Richard T. Schulze. During the call, Schulze disclosed that a coalition of doctors was being created to pursue their push to "reopen" the economy; she argued that they had a high degree of trust, that the left had a tendency to "appreciate and listen to" science, and that "we have doctors that have the facts, that lived this themselves, that are in the trenches, that are saying it's time to reopen." Schlapp remarked that they were "the type of guys we want to get out on TV and radio to help push out the message."
On May 19, 2020, the coalition—A Doctor a Day—published an open letter to President Trump with Simone Gold as lead signatory, which argued that lockdowns themselves were a "mass casualty incident", and that "it is impossible to overstate the short, medium, and long-term harm to people's health with a continued shutdown." During a White House meeting on schools in early-July, Martin publicly called for schools to be reopened in the fall, and told Trump that she had "been in touch with almost a thousand doctors from around the country", and had "helped" Gold with the aforementioned open letter. A clip of her remarks went viral on conservative media outlets, often without any reference to Martin or her affiliations.
In media appearances leading up to July 27, 2020 (including Whiskey Politics and The Charlie Kirk Show), Gold promoted various forms of COVID-19 misinformation, including claims surrounding the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine as a therapeutic, that there was no scientific basis for mandating face masks in public spaces, and that death certificates were being falsified by physicians to artificially increase the number of COVID-19-related deaths.
White Coat Summit and other activitiesEdit
On July 27, 2020, the Tea Party Patriots hosted and funded a press conference in Washington, D.C., in front of the Supreme Court Building, dubbed the "White Coat Summit", which featured a group led by Gold that referred to themselves as "America's Frontline Doctors". The group claimed that a cocktail of hydroxychloroquine, Zithromax, and zinc could be used as a "cure" for COVID-19, and that public health measures were therefore unnecessary. None of these drugs have been approved by the FDA or other regulators as therapeutics for COVID-19, and the claims were made without peer-reviewed evidence 
One of the speakers, Stella Immanuel, said she herself had treated and cured 350 COVID-19 patients using the aforementioned cocktail, and referred to doctors refusing to use hydroxychloroquine as being like the "good Germans who allow the Nazis to kill the Jews". They also accused "fake pharma companies" of sponsoring studies that found hydroxychloroquine to be ineffective against COVID-19.
The event was live streamed by Breitbart News, and video of the event was shared on social media platforms, such as Facebook groups dedicated to anti-vaccination and conspiracy movements, and on Twitter—where then President Trump (who had also promoted the drugs) and his son Donald Trump Jr. both shared versions of the video. Citing policies against COVID-19 misinformation, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube began to delete posts of the video. It was estimated that posts of the video on Facebook had reached over 14 million views before the takedown. Twitter restricted the account of Trump Jr. for 12 hours after he uploaded a version of the video to his account.
When asked about the video, Trump referred to the group as being "very respected doctors", and referred to Immanuel as "spectacular". When asked why he trusted Immanuel despite her history of promoting conspiracies (such as alien DNA being used as part of medical treatments), Trump replied, "I thought she was very impressive, in the sense that, from where she came — I don't know what country she comes from — but she said that she's had tremendous success with hundreds of different patients." Following the event, Gold said that she had been fired from her position as an emergency room physician at two hospitals.
After the 2021 United States Capitol attack in January 2021, Gold, as well as AFLDS communications director Jason Strand, were both arrested for their participation in the insurrection.
In 2021, AFLDS shifted their activities to opposition of COVID-19 vaccines. In May, AFLDS sued the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama. The group sought to invalidate the FDA's emergency use authorization for the vaccines and halt administration of all COVID-19 vaccinations in the United States. In its petition and motions, the group made a series of false claims, including that the COVID-19 vaccines are similar to Communist brainwashing; that COVID-19 vaccines are "not effective"; and that COVID-19 vaccines had killed at least 45,000 people in the United States. Scott Jensen, a former member of the Minnesota Senate and Republican candidate for governor of Minnesota, also joined the lawsuit.
America's Frontline Doctors has promoted SpeakWithAnMD, a telehealth website promoted by and connected to conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi, that primarily distributes drugs that have been claimed by right-wing figures to be therapeutics for COVID-19. When referred via the AFLDS website, the site charges US$90 for a doctor consultation with an "AFLDS-trained" physician, which is provided by Encore Telemedicine. Orders are then fulfilled via the online pharmacy Ravkoo, which is charged on top of the consulting fee and can vary.
Hundreds of customers and donors accused the organization of charging fees for ivermectin prescriptions and consultations but failing to deliver, as well as referring customers to online pharmacies that charged excessive prices for the common anti-parasitic drug, which is not approved for use as a treatment for COVID-19.
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