The state of Missouri is suing televangelist Jim Bakker for allegedly selling a fake coronavirus (COVID-19) cure.
On Tuesday, the Missouri Attorney General’s Office announced its lawsuit and filed for a temporary restraining order against Bakker, Morningside Church Productions and the Jim Bakker Show, citing that they violated the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act.
According to the lawsuit, Bakker falsely promised “consumers that Silver Solution can cure, eliminate, kill or deactivate coronavirus and/or boost elderly consumers’ immune system and help keep them healthy when there is, in fact, no vaccine, pill, potion or other product available to treat or cure coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).”
The documents cited a broadcast of his show from Feb. 12, where the TV preacher promoted “Silver Solution” — also known as “Silver Sol” and “Optivida Silver Solution” — as capable of eliminating the coronavirus.
“This influenza that is now circling the globe, you’re saying that silver solution would be effective,” he said to naturopathic doctor Sherrill Sellman.
Sellman responded, “Well, let’s say it hasn’t been tested on this strain of the coronavirus, but it has been tested on other strains of the coronavirus and has been able to eliminate it within 12 hours. Totally eliminate it, kills it. Deactivates it. And it boosts your immune system so then you can support the recovery, ‘cause when you kill the virus then the immune system comes into action to clear it out, so you want a vibrant immune system as well as an ability to deactivate these viruses.”
The Jim Bakker Show is suggesting that the silver solution it sells can kill the coronavirus within 12 hours. pic.twitter.com/kbUGnUp69m— Right Wing Watch (@RightWingWatch) February 12, 2020
She then promised that “Silver Sol” has been “proven by the government” to have the ability to “kill every pathogen it has ever been tested on including SARS and HIV.”
These baseless claims were backed up by Bakker, who proceeded to offer the products to his viewers should they donate at least $80. He also sold the “Silver Solution” on his website for as much as $125, reiterating the same false facts that Sellman said on his broadcast.
Missouri is the first state to file a lawsuit against Bakker for selling his coronavirus “treatment.” However, on March 3, the New York Attorney General’s Office also sent him a cease-and-desist letter, accusing him of “fraudulent and deceptive business practices.”
“Your show’s segment may mislead consumers as to the effectiveness of the Silver Solution product in protecting against the current outbreak,” wrote Lisa Landau, chief of the New York Attorney General’s Office’s health care bureau. “The World Health Organization (WHO) has noted that there is no specific medicine to prevent or treat this disease. Therefore, any representation on the Jim Bakker Show that its Silver Solution products are effective at combating and/or treating the 2019 novel coronavirus violates New York law.”
They gave him 10 days to comply and adjust his website before they would move forward with legal action.
The Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission also issued warning letters to Bakker on March 6, stating that “there are currently no vaccines, potions, lotions, lozenges or other prescription or over-the-counter products available to treat or cure coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19)” — which has infected at least 1,297 people and killed 37 in the United States as of March 12.
The Jim Bakker Show did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.
After New York’s cease-and-desist letter, the show released a statement to The Washington Post, defending the products.
“We believe in Optivida Silver Solution … because of the research and the advice from medical professionals that we respect,” the statement read. “What has cemented that belief comes from the countless testimonies of its benefits and what we have seen and experienced ourselves.”
As of Thursday morning, March 12, it appears that the products have been removed from Bakker’s website.
The preacher originally rose to fame as the host of The PTL Club — a Christian television program he hosted with his then-wife, Tammy Faye — during the 1970s and ’80s.
He later left the show after his affair with church secretary Jessica Hahn made headlines, and later was convicted of fraud and spent several years in prison for scamming his viewers out of millions of dollars, according to CBS News.