Dr. Friedman’s Health Blog

WHO FACT-CHECKS THE FACT-CHECKERS? (UPDATE!)

By: Dr. David Friedman

A QUICK RECAP:  

Back in Feb of 2020, before it was considered the new norm for respected doctors to be labeled as charlatans by self-appointed internet watchdog groups, I wrote an article on the importance of being outdoors during the pandemic.  At the time, “social distancing” had quickly turned into a national “Stay at Home” campaign. Celebrities, sports icons, and politicians began using the hashtag #stayathome and millions of people took refuge indoors.  My neighbors boarded up their windows and barricaded themselves inside as if they were bracing for a category 4 hurricane!  While most people didn’t go to such extremes, many still believed they were more at risk of getting the virus by being outside. To set the record straight, I wrote a science-backed article called,  Staying Indoors Increases the Coronavirus Risk. It went viral (pun intended) and was read and shared by millions of people! 

I did not promote a supplement nor did I delve into any controversial topics like social distancing, facemasks, or vaccines.  I  simply shared my frustration with the “Stay at Home” narrative which was scaring people into barricading themselves inside their homes. My article proved how being without sunshine and fresh air makes you more vulnerable to getting a viral infection. Simply put, I promoted the practice of social distancing, not sunshine distancing. 

I also presented research showing the coronavirus doesn’t survive well in sunshine and it can not travel from person to person outside as it does indoors. Scientific evidence shows that UV light from sunshine breaks down the nucleic acid of the virus and also sterilizes surfaces. In fact, UV light is used in operating rooms because it destroys viruses and bacteria. The coronavirus thrives indoors.  

To read the original article from Feb of 2020  click here.

Mission accomplished! My article did the job of removing the rampant “zombie apocalypse” fear and more and more people were leaving their houses to embrace the sunshine and fresh air. Then one day, I received a call from a friend of mine informing me that USA Today had fact-checked my article and said I was spreading false information and endangering lives by recommending sunshine and fresh air.

Huh?

When I read the USA Today article, I was shocked to learn Molly Stellino, the “fact-checker” hired to debunk my blog post, forgot to include something kind of important, the FACTS!  She didn’t mention any of the credible research I shared from the Journal of Infectious Diseases,  World Health Organization, Lancet Medical Journal, Plos One Medical Journal, University of Maryland School of Medicine, and the American Journal of Public Health.  All of these “facts” were completely ignored by Ms. Stellino. She stated she tried reaching out to me for a comment and claimed I didn’t respond. That was not true. I didn’t receive any correspondence from her. So, I wrote a follow-up article that shared my detailed rebuttal:

Click here to read USA TODAY “Fact-Checked” Me! Here's My Response

Then I got an email from NewsGuard, telling me they were red flagging my website as “untrustworthy.”  NewsGuard is a group of self-proclaimed “Internet Watch Dogs” that place warning labels on websites that they consider spreaders of  “fake news.” When John Gregory, NewsGuard’s Senior Analyst and Deputy Editor, reached out to me for comment, it was obvious he had spent many hours (perhaps days) putting together his hit piece. This included digging into my past, maybe he even called my high school principal?   But what I couldn’t understand was, why go after me for recommending sunshine?  I decided to do some digging on my own. I followed the money to learn exactly who was financing USA Today and NewsGuard’s attack. Many other doctors were also being targeted for sharing holistic approaches to living healthier and staying safer during the pandemic. 

For the record,  I’m not into fearmongering.  The title of my International award-winning, #1 bestselling book says it all, Food Sanity, How to Eat in a World of Fads & Fiction. I am not a fan of misinformation and in every chapter, I debunk common food and nutrition myths. I don’t sell or profit from any of the food I recommend, just like I do not have a vested interest in sunshine, nor do I own stock in fresh air.  While I had no biased motives for writing the article, I would soon discover, NewsGuard certainly did have a financial incentive for keeping people in the dark (out of the sun) and living in fear.  

During my investigation, I was able to dig up who was behind USA Today and NewsGuard’s attack.  They are both financed by vested interest groups and pharmaceutical companies that, at the time,  were racing to create a COVID-19 vaccine including Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline, Amgen, Merck & Co. Abbot, Roche, Gilead, Biogen, and Sanofi.

Sure sounds like a BUYased incentive to me!  (spelling emphasized.)  Okay, this finally made sense.  Doctors sharing holistic, drug-free approaches to preventing COVID-19 was not something Big Pharma wanted being shared, especially from educated doctors!  

I exposed my findings in an article called “Who Fact-Checks the Fact-Checkers?” which ended up being read and shared by five million people

YOU CAN READ IT--> here.

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Okay, we’re are all caught up.  Let’s fast forward to 2021….

I recently received an email from NewsGuard’s John Gregory who apparently was doing an annual colonoscopy of my “untrustworthy” website. Because I’m on their list of offenders, I was told that my website will get reviewed by them every year.  I learned that Mr. Gregory had spent several hours reading all my old blog posts. Instead of COVID-19, NewsGuard now had its target set on any detrimental information regarding soy (wait until you learn why!)

BELOW IS OUR CORRESPONDENCE:

John Gregory wrote:  


Mr. Friedman,

This is John Gregory, the health editor at NewsGuard. We spoke last year when NewsGuard first rated your website. 

We are now updating that rating and have additional questions about content published since that initial review.


1) In this article, you state that "hundreds of studies" have linked soy to serious health problems, including cancer. The only source you provide is an article [from Huffington Post] by Joseph Mercola, who has repeatedly promoted false health claims and whose own article did not cite any specific studies. Moreover, according to the American Cancer Society, "the evidence does not point to any dangers from eating soy in people, and the health benefits appear to outweigh any potential risk. In fact, there is growing evidence that eating traditional soy foods such as tofu, tempeh, edamame, miso, and soymilk may lower the risk of breast cancer."

What evidence do you have to support your claims and why wasn't that evidence included in your article?

2) Has the site published any corrections in the past year?

John Gregory

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MY REPLY:  

Hi John, 

Yes, I remember you. You labeled my website “untrustworthy”  because I wrote a blog post sharing how fresh air and sunshine can decrease the risk of getting COVID-19 compared to being indoors.  I spent considerable time replying to your inquiry, but you cherry-picked my response and didn’t include any of the scientific studies I shared.  For the life of me,  I could not figure out why your company would pay you to spend so many hours going after someone for writing about the benefits of sunshine and fresh air?  I have no ulterior motives. I own no stock in sunshine and I don’t make a dime when someone steps outside to breathe fresh air.   Then I discovered who founded NewsGuard and your ulterior motives were quite apparent.

 I see you’re continuing your colonoscopy and digging into my old blog archives.

You didn’t include a link to the blog post in question, so I don’t know which one you’re referring to? However, there is one post that briefly mentions soy that I wrote three years ago called, “Salad Topper Rankings.”  In this, I shared a link that goes to Huffington Post’s article entitled “The Health Dangers of Soy.” The article they published features Dr. Mercola, who at the time had the #1 visited health and wellness website in the world.  I realize he’s now considered public enemy number one by anti-natural health groups, including NewsGuard.  Why haven’t you also red flagged Huffington Post’s website as being “untrustworthy”? They featured the article in question while I merely shared a link to Huffington Post’s website.   

Could this possibly be because  Nicholas Penniman, founder and executive director of the Huffington Post, just so happens to be one of NewsGuard’s top financial supporters? You conveniently forgot to mention this in your “transparent” mission to protect the internet from injustice! You defame my website’s reputation and label me as a spreader of  “untrustworthy fake news” while the person who PAYS YOUR SALARY gets a free pass to publish the same exact info you consider to be false information?!  How can NewsGuard promote themselves as “fair and unbiased,” yet conveniently look the other way when their financial backer is committing such a heinous online crime against humanity?

To answer your question, there are hundreds of studies and articles on the negative effects of consuming unfermented soy and its components: trypsin inhibitors, goitrogens, phytoestrogens, hemagglutinin,  free glutamic acid, and high phytic acid.  Obviously, a personal blog post sharing my favorite salad toppers doesn’t require links to scientific studies like a professionally written article for a peer-reviewed medical journal. 

However, if you want a list of scientific references showing the negative effects on unfermented soy, I do include these in my book Food Sanity, which was reviewed and substantiated by the editorial team at Turner Publishing.  I would be happy to send you a copy of my book for your perusal. However, if NewsGuard will be adding censorship of published books to their list, you guys may want to hire a whole lot more employees and an in-house legal team.

You asked me if I have published any corrections or amendments over the past year? Yes. I did make one today. I just removed the link to Huffington Post’s website from that old salad topper blog post.  No one reads it anyway because most restaurants are no longer offering salad bars.   

Now, I will ask you the same question. Have you amended or corrected anything on your website since your negative review of my blog post, “STAYING INDOORS INCREASES CORONAVIRUS RISK” ? After your hit piece on me for recommending sunshine, the United States Department of Homeland Security showed how sunlight and humidity kills the coronavirus! During a White House press briefing, William N. Bryan, secretary for science and technology at the Homeland Security Department shared detailed lab studies carried out by the U.S. Army’s high biosecurity laboratory at Fort Detrick, Md. 

Their clinical research showed after only 1.5 minutes of sunlight exposure,  the coronavirus, like many other viruses,  is 50% destroyed! Bryan summarized,  “Within the conditions we’ve tested, the virus in droplets of saliva survives best when indoors and in dry conditions. The virus dies quickest in the presence of direct sunlight.” At the end of this press briefing, he told people, “Go outside and get some sunshine!”  Mr. Gregory,  that was the entire basis of my blog post;  to keep people from barricading themselves indoors, which is NOT healthy.

Why didn’t NewsGuard share this new evidence as an amendment to their negative review of my article? Or, an even better question is, did you label The United States Homeland Security Department “untrustworthy” and warn people to stay away?  I think we both know the answer to that question.  NewsGuard wouldn’t dare go after this federal organization with 240,000 employees strong!  Instead, you choose to go after underdog websites, like mine--owned and operated by just one person-- me!

Let me know if you want to start scrutinizing published books. I will send you a copy of Food Sanity and a large list of additional books written by renowned doctors, scientists, and health experts sharing the negative health effects of consuming unfermented soy.

All the best,

David

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JOHN GREGORY’S RESPONSE:

Thank you for your response, Mr. Friedman. 

In response to your questions:

1) Regarding Huffington Post, the  article from Dr. Mercola appears to be part of their now-defunct contributors program, which ended in 2018 over HuffPost's own concerns about the potential for false information to be published. It is odd that this particular article remains live on the site when many of Dr. Mercola's contributions to HuffPost have since been deleted, and we will be asking them about it. 

2) The US Dept of Homeland Security lab study you cited -- the published version can be found here -- researched the effects of simulated sunlight on SARS-CoV-2 on surfaces, not in humans, which does not back your article's assertion that "getting more sunshine is a proactive step we can all take at protecting ourselves from the current coronavirus outbreak." 

Regarding the change you made to the soy article, because you deleted the sentence we cited without any notice to the reader that the article was changed, that does not meet our standard for noting corrections in a transparent way. 

John Gregory


MY REPLY: 

Hello John,

I didn't realize there was a NewsGuard approved way of removing a sentence from a blog article you’ve deemed untrustworthy. Maybe I missed the memo you sent out with specifics on how falsehood spreaders can redeem themselves?  I just checked your website and I don’t see any approved way to prep for your anti-freedom of speech colonoscopy.   Could that be because there is none?   

Since I quoted an article published by Huffington Post, one of the largest news sources in the world, how does my linking to their website make me the spreader of misinformation?  The articles they publish are referenced by thousands of bloggers and journalists all over the world. Since Huffington Post’s founder is NewsGuard’s top financial supporter, I guess they receive a  “get out of jail free” card?   

Because the article in question was written a long time ago, I removed the link to see if it was possible to appease NewsGuard.  Your reply says my deletion doesn’t count because “I removed the sentence you cited without any notice to the reader that the article was changed, and this does not meet NewsGuard’s standards for noting corrections in a transparent way.” I wrote the salad bar topper ranking post before COVID-19,  when people were still eating at salad bars.  I do not require people to submit their email addresses before reading my posts and I have no way of knowing anyone’s contact info. Did you submit yours before reading my blogs?

If Huffington Post decides to remove this “disgraceful” article that I referenced, do they have all their readers' contact information so they can abide by the NewsGuard approved process of sending a notice to everyone?   

CNN.com, which NewsGuard considers a green flag "trustworthy" website, published an article entitled "What happens to your body when  you eat soy?"  In this CNN article it states:

“There’s not much evidence that soy produces health benefits. Claims that it lowers cholesterol, calms hot flashes, prevents breast and prostate cancer, aids weight loss, and wards off osteoporosis are all based on preliminary research, inconclusive evidence or overstated claims, according to a 2014 Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health report.”

"Soy contains isoflavones — a type of phytoestrogren that mimics the effect of estrogen on the body. When you eat soy, it has the potential to disrupt estrogen-sensitive systems in your body, including the reproductive system (which includes the brain, the pituitary gland, and the reproductive organs.) There have even been cases where women have eaten so much soy that they’ve temporarily shut down their menstrual cycle.”

“Soy is even more estrogenic than BPA [an endocrine-disrupting chemical found in plastic,]  according to a review of research on the pros and cons of phytoestrogens. Beyond that, the NIH states that soy’s possible role in breast cancer is uncertain and advises that, ‘women who have or who are at increased risk of developing breast cancer or other hormone-sensitive conditions (such as ovarian or uterine cancer) should be particularly careful about using soy. ”   

Mr. Gregory,  that certainly goes against NewsGuard’s approved views on soy.  I double dare you to give CNN’s website a red flag and label them untrustworthy as you did mine.  

And while you’re at it,  be sure and red flag BreastCancer.org for stating “Females adding a medium amount of soy to their diets turns on genes that can cause cancer to grow.” They based this on research published by the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, “The Effects of Soy Supplementation on Gene Expression in Breast Cancer: A Randomized Placebo-Controlled Study.” Their conclusion:  “Our findings raise the concerns that in a subset of women soy could adversely affect gene expression in breast cancer.”

Since you use the word transparency, would you mind letting me know who is writing NewsGuard a hefty check to defend the soy industry?  Perhaps it’s Bayer, the agrichemical and drug titan that purchased the rights to American seed maker Monsanto in 2018 for $63 billion?  Bayer dominates the $40 billion U.S. soy industry. Would you care to share whether or not  NewsGuard has any financial ties to Bayer?  

Actually, there’s no need. I did some digging on my own and found it myself:

NewsGuard received much of its startup funds from Publicis Groupe, a giant global communications group whose health subsidiary includes BAYER!  

Since soy makes Bayer BILLIONS of dollars and articles on independent websites like mine may hurt their revenues, apparently they are paying NewsGuard to silence them.

______________________________  

SIDE NOTE:  On my radio show To Your Good Health Radio, I have interviewed many renowned doctors and scientists who have shared how unfermented soy wreaks havoc on people’s hormones and is linked to many diseases, including cancer.  Recently, something very peculiar happened. I interviewed a doctor that's a New York Times bestselling author who publicly RECANTED her original negative opinions on soy.  She apologized profusely to my listeners and said she was going public to amend her previous voiced negative statements on soy. After the show, I asked her why she is retracting something she was adamant about for so many years? She replied, “I’ll just say off the record, I’m being paid a lot of money to do so.”  Sadly, it’s come down to profits before people.

______________________________  

As for Homeland Security’s research stating that  sunshine destroys the coronavirus, your rebuttal was:

“The research you cited was on the effects of sunlight on SARS-CoV-2 on surfaces, not in humans, which does not back your article's assertion that ‘getting more sunshine is a proactive step we can all take at protecting ourselves from the current coronavirus outbreak.’ " 

It most certainly does back up my “assertion” on why being outside makes you less prone to getting infected.  I never said that sunshine was a cure for people suffering from COVID-19. I clearly made a case for how the virus thrives indoors and is destroyed by sunshine and fresh outdoor air.  

Here’s Homeland Security’s research overview:



SOURCE: HOMELAND SECURITY

Also, in July 2020, The Journal of Infectious Diseases stated,   “Evidence shows that sunlight may rapidly inactivate SARS-CoV-2 on surfaces, suggesting that surface persistence, and subsequently exposure risk, may vary significantly between indoor and outdoor environments.”  Those were my exact views five months before this study was ever published.  Did NewsGuard label this prestigious peer-reviewed medical journal “fake news” and warn people to stay away from their website? Nope. Instead, you attack my blog post for stating the same  thing. Is the reason you are going after thousands of independent websites because you don’t have the manpower or balls to go after highly respected medical journals, news networks, or the U.S Department of Homeland Security?  

In closing, pneumonia associated with COVID-19 is a major cause of death for those that don’t survive the infection. In my blog post  I quoted the director at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health who said,  “There’s lots of evidence that air pollution increases the chances that someone will get pneumonia, and if they get pneumonia, they will be sicker with it. While we don’t have direct evidence of that with COVID-19, I would be surprised if air pollution did not affect the risk for COVID-19 infection and the severity of illness.”   That was stated  in early 2020. Did Harvard’s website get labeled  “untrustworthy” by NewsGuard? I don’t think you have the guts to call Harvard, one of the world’s most respected educational intuitions, spreaders of  “fake news.”

I kindly request an amended green light grade,  or at the very least, an addendum sharing this new evidence that has come to light (pun intended.)  It most certainly substantiates what I stated.  My article did not advocate people not take medication, nor did I bash vaccines or go on an anti-mask rant. I simply shared my opinion (which is what BLOG posts are for,) along with evidence on why sunshine and fresh air is healthier for protecting ourselves from the virus than staying indoors.  Either prove to me otherwise or be the unbiased guardian of truth and justice you claim to be and include these substantiated findings (without your biased spin) as an update to the  “stay away” warning label you placed on my website.  

Regards, 

David 

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MY CLOSING THOUGHTS:

When I was growing up, we had Encyclopedia Britannica books to learn from.  Never did  an  encyclopedia policeman arrive at our door to tear out pages that were deemed “untrustworthy.”  The encyclopedia was an unbiased resource providing us with basic overviews of topics to expand our knowledge.  Today’s encyclopedia is Google, YouTube, and social media.   Unfortunately,  all of these platforms are bought and paid for by vested interest groups that want to delete anyone’s views that jeopardize their financial profits.  

I believe our freedom of speech is the greatest gift of American culture. We are a nation of diversity:  republicans and democrats, Christians and atheists, animal rights activists and hunters, etc.  That’s what makes living in America so wonderful! We have the freedom to explore all sides and make our own informed decisions.

When fact-checkers paid for by multibillion-dollar corporations have the authority to implement widespread speech control, what makes us any different than communist countries like  China or  North Korea? 

We are quickly becoming a nation of conformity. We are being manipulated into what we’re allowed to think and censored on what we can say.   Soon our government will give us all an ultimatum, “It’s our way or the highway!” As for me, I will always choose the autobahn. 

About the Author

Dr. David Friedman is the author of the award-winning, #1 national best-selling book Food Sanity, How to Eat in a World of Fads and Fiction. He's a  Doctor of Naturopathy, Chiropractic Neurologist, Clinical Nutritionist, Board Certified Alternative Medical Practitioner, and Board Certified in Integrative Medicine.  Dr. Friedman is a syndicated television health expert and host of To Your Good Health Radio, which has changed the face of talk radio by incorporating entertainment, shock value, and solutions to everyday health and wellness issues.
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