Fact-checking Judy Mikovits, the controversial virologist attacking Anthony Fauci in a viral conspiracy video | Science

Judy Mikovits (right), seen here at her lab in Reno, Nevada, in 2011 with a graduate student, has made many unfounded claims about the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

David Calvert for AP Images

In a video that has exploded on social media in the past few days, virologist Judy Mikovits claims the new coronavirus is being wrongly blamed for many deaths. She makes head-scratching assertions about the virus—for instance, that it is “activated” by face masks.

Mikovits also accuses Anthony Fauci, head of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and a prominent member of the White House’s Coronavirus Task Force, of being responsible for the deaths of millions during the early years of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. The video claims Mikovits was part of the team that discovered HIV, revolutionized HIV treatment, and was jailed without charges for her scientific positions.

Science fact-checked the video. None of these claims are true. The video is an excerpt from a forthcoming movie Plandemic, which promises to “expose the scientific and political elite who run the scam that is our global health system.” YouTube, Facebook, and other platforms have taken down the video because of inaccuracies. It keeps resurfacing, including on the Plandemic website, which, in “an effort to bypass the gatekeepers of free speech,” invites people to download the video and repost it.

But first, who is Judy Mikovits?

Mikovits started her career as a lab technician at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) in 1988. She became a scientist and obtained a Ph.D. in biochemistry and molecular biology from George Washington University in 1991. By 2009, she was research director at the Whittemore Peterson Institute (WPI), a private research center in Reno, Nevada, but she remained largely unknown to the scientific community. That year, however, she co-authored a paper in Science that suggested an obscure agent named xenotropic murine leukemia virus-related virus (XMRV) caused chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).

The cause of CFS, also called myalgic encephalomyelitis, had long remained elusive, and the disease had been neglected by science. The study created hope that CFS might become treatable with antivirals. Some patients even began to take antiretroviral drugs used by HIV-infected people. But the paper also created worries that XMRV might spread via the blood supply.

Other researchers soon questioned the findings, and over the next 2 years, the paper’s claims fell apart. Researchers showed that XMRV was created accidentally in the lab during mouse experiments; it may never have infected any humans. The authors first retracted two figures and a table from the paper in October 2011. Around the same time, a study by several labs, including WPI itself, showed the findings couldn’t be replicated.

Two months later, the entire Science paper was retracted. Mikovits refused to sign the retraction notice, but she took part in another major replication effort. That $2.3 million study, led by Ian Lipkin of Columbia University and funded by the National Institutes of Health, was “the definitive answer,” Mikovits said at a September 2012 press conference where the results were announced. The rigorous study looked for XMRV in blinded blood samples from nearly 300 people, half of whom had the disease, and none had the virus. “There is no evidence that XMRV is a human pathogen,” Mikovits conceded.

Science’s news department, which works independently from its editorial side, followed the saga closely and published a detailed reconstruction of the fiasco in September 2011. (The story won a Communications Award from the American Society for Microbiology.)

Around the same time, Mikovits had an explosive breakup with WPI. The institute filed suit against her in November 2011 for allegedly removing laboratory notebooks and keeping other proprietary information on her laptop, on flash drives, and in a personal email account. She was arrested in California on felony charges that she was a fugitive from justice and jailed for several days. Prosecutors in Washoe county, Nevada, eventually dropped criminal charges against her in June 2012.

Mikovits has not published anything in the scientific literature since 2012. But she soon began to promote the XMRV hypothesis again, and attack the Lipkin study that she agreed had put the issue to rest. She has weighed in on the autism debate with controversial theories about causes and treatments. Her discredited work and her legal travails have made her a martyr in the eyes of some.

Now comes a new book she co-authored, Plague of Corruption: Restoring Faith in the Promise of Science—billed as “a behind the scenes look at the issues and egos which will determine the future health of humanity”—and the viral video, which is an extended interview with Mikovits.

Science asked Mikovits for an interview for this article. She responded by sending an empty email with, as attachments, a copy of her new book and a PowerPoint of a 2019 presentation titled “Persecution and Coverup.”

Below are some of the video’s main claims and allegations, along with the facts. 

Interviewer: Dr. Judy Mikovits has been called one of the most accomplished scientists of her generation.

Mikovits had authored 40 scientific papers and wasn’t widely known in the scientific community before she published the 2009 Science paper claiming a link between a new retrovirus and CFS. The paper was later proven erroneous and retracted.

Interviewer: Her 1991 doctoral thesis revolutionized the treatment of HIV/AIDS.

Mikovits’s Ph.D. thesis, “Negative Regulation of HIV Expression in Monocytes,” had no discernible impact on the treatment of HIV/AIDS.

Interviewer: At the height of her career, Dr. Mikovits published a blockbuster article in the journal Science. The controversial article sent shock waves through the scientific community, as it revealed that the common use of animal and human fetal tissues was unleashing devastating plagues of chronic diseases.

The paper revealed nothing of the sort; it only claimed to show a link between one condition, CFS, and a mouse retrovirus.

Mikovits: I was held in jail, with no charges.

The district attorney in Washoe county, Nevada, filed a criminal complaint against Mikovits that charged her with illegally taking computer data and related property from WPI. The charges were dropped, in part because of legal troubles faced by her former employer.

Mikovits: Heads of our entire HHS [Department of Health and Human Services] colluded and destroyed my reputation and the Department of Justice and the [Federal Bureau of Investigation] sat on it, and kept that case under seal.

Mikovits has presented no direct evidence that HHS heads colluded against her.

Mikovits: [Fauci] directed the cover-up. And in fact, everybody else was paid off, and paid off big time, millions of dollars in funding from Tony Fauci and … the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. These investigators that committed the fraud, continue to this day to be paid big time by the NIAID.

It’s not clear which fraud and what cover-up Mikovits is talking about exactly. There is no evidence that Fauci was involved in a cover-up or that anyone was paid off with funding from him or his institute. No one has been charged with fraud in relation to Mikovits’s allegations.

Mikovits: It started really when I was 25 years old, and I was part of the team that isolated HIV from the saliva and blood of the patients from France where [virologist Luc] Montagnier had originally isolated the virus. … Fauci holds up the publication of the paper for several months while Robert Gallo writes his own paper and takes all the credit, and of course patents are involved. This delay of the confirmation, you know, literally led to spreading the virus around, you know, killing millions.

At the time of HIV’s discovery, Mikovits was a lab technician in Francis Ruscetti’s lab at NCI and had yet to receive her Ph.D. There is no evidence that she was part of the team that first isolated the virus. Her first published paper, co-authored with Ruscetti, was on HIV and published in May 1986, 2 years after Science published four landmark papers that linked HIV (then called HTLV-III by Gallo’s lab) to AIDS. Ruscetti’s first paper on HIV appeared in August 1985. There is no evidence that Fauci held up either paper or that this led to the death of millions.

Interviewer: If we activate mandatory vaccines globally, I imagine these people stand to make hundreds of billions of dollars that own the vaccines.

Mikovits: And they’ll kill millions, as they already have with their vaccines. There is no vaccine currently on the schedule for any RNA virus that works.

Vaccines have not killed millions; they have saved millions of lives. Many vaccines that work against RNA viruses are on the market, including for influenza, measles, mumps, rubella, rabies, yellow fever, and Ebola.

Interviewer: So, I have to ask you, are you antivaccine?

Mikovits: Oh, absolutely not. In fact vaccine is immune therapy, just like interferon alpha is immune therapy, so I’m not antivaccine. My job is to develop immune therapies. That’s what vaccines are.

In another recent video, Mikovits is wearing a hat that says VAXXED II, which is a sequel to a film that links the mumps, measles, and rubella vaccine to autism, a debunked theory. She also repeats several claims made by people who are leading the antivaccine movement. In the PowerPoint presentation she sent to Science, she calls for an “immediate moratorium” on all vaccines.

Interviewer: Do you believe that this virus [SARS-CoV-2] was created in the laboratory?

Mikovits: I wouldn’t use the word created. But you can’t say naturally occurring if it was by way of the laboratory. So it’s very clear this virus was manipulated. This family of viruses was manipulated and studied in a laboratory where the animals were taken into the laboratory, and this is what was released, whether deliberate or not. That cannot be naturally occurring. Somebody didn’t go to a market, get a bat, the virus didn’t jump directly to humans. That’s not how it works. That’s accelerated viral evolution. If it was a natural occurrence, it would take up to 800 years to occur.

Scientific estimates suggest the closest virus to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is a bat coronavirus identified by the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV). Its “distance” in evolutionary time to SARS-CoV-2 is about 20 to 80 years. There is no evidence this bat virus was manipulated.

Interviewer: And do you have any ideas of where this occurred?

Mikovits: Oh yeah, I’m sure it occurred between the North Carolina laboratories, Fort Detrick, the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, and the Wuhan laboratory.

There is no evidence that SARS-CoV-2 originated at WIV. NIAID’s funding of a U.S. group that works with the Wuhan lab has been stopped, which outraged many scientists.

Mikovits: Italy has a very old population. They’re very sick with inflammatory disorders. They got at the beginning of 2019 an untested new form of influenza vaccine that had four different strains of influenza, including the highly pathogenic H1N1. That vaccine was grown in a cell line, a dog cell line. Dogs have lots of coronaviruses.

There is no evidence that links any influenza vaccine, or a dog coronavirus, to Italy’s COVID-19 epidemic.

Mikovits: Wearing the mask literally activates your own virus. You’re getting sick from your own reactivated coronavirus expressions, and if it happens to be SARS-CoV-2, then you’ve got a big problem.

It’s not clear what Mikovits means by “coronavirus expressions.” There is no evidence that wearing a mask can activate viruses and make people sick.

Mikovits: Why would you close the beach? You’ve got sequences in the soil, in the sand. You’ve got healing microbes in the ocean in the salt water. That’s insanity.

It’s not clear what Mikovits means by sand or soil “sequences.” There is no evidence that microbes in the ocean can heal COVID-19 patients.

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