Eric Nepute Is Being Sued for Spreading COVID Misinformation — 10 Million Times

The St. Louis chiropractor says he's being persecuted by an overzealous FTC

Feb 15, 2023 at 8:04 am
click to enlarge Eric Nepute says that he's just trying to keep people healthy and sell vitamins. The FTC says that he's made more than 10 million misleading claims about COVID-19.
Eric Nepute says that he's just trying to keep people healthy and sell vitamins. The FTC says that he's made more than 10 million misleading claims about COVID-19.

Talk radio is not known for its brevity, and the teaser for Eric Nepute's radio show is no exception.

"Even before all the COVID craziness, Dr. Eric Nepute has been a fighter for truth, health and freedom," it begins. "And he is respected not only in the St. Louis area, but worldwide. Now he's inviting his like-minded colleagues and friends to help. The so-called government health experts are putting their agenda before your health and well-being and Dr. Eric and friends are debunking the evil ..."

No one should be surprised to learn Nepute broadcasts on a conservative radio station, in this case Real Talk 93.3 FM. He comes on air introduced as "the Rock Doc" while Europe's "Final Countdown" plays in the background.

He typically starts the show by giving a rundown of the day's headlines most likely to alarm and outrage his listeners. A recent episode in January was no exception: Another young athlete had mysteriously dropped dead; the United Kingdom announced there had been 1,000 more deaths of young people per week in 2022 than in previous years; the debt-ceiling limit would soon be reached; millions of taxpayer dollars were going to "transgender training of trout and other weird animals in the Middle East."

"You're not going to believe some of this stuff because you're not seeing it in the mainstream media," Nepute told his listeners.

As with many things on Real Talk with Dr. Eric Nepute and Friends, there is some key information missing. While it is true that both the U.K. and the U.S. have seen upticks in deaths of young people, it has not been at a rate of 1,000 per week in the U.K. and most experts place the blame for the excess deaths on COVID-19 and other pandemic-related knock-on effects and not, as Nepute would later imply, the COVID-19 vaccine. Numerous Google searches for different combinations of "transgender"a and "trout" failed to turn up any results.

"You need to listen to people who are free thinking, who have common sense and rational logic," Nepute said. Then he gave a shout out to his chief nemeses. "Good morning, FTC; good morning, DOJ. Hope you guys are having a blessed day. That's right folks, they literally listen to every word we say because we are in a police state. Our Constitution is literally being trampled upon, ripped up and quite honestly urinated on by these crazy left-leaning — I don't even know what to call them — lunatics. They're just lunatics."

While this may sound like right-wing paranoia, Nepute was actually spot on about one thing. The Federal Trade Commission and Department of Justice were almost certainly listening in.

click to enlarge Eric Nepute operates two wellness centers, including this one in South County.
Eric Nepute operates two wellness centers, including this one in South County.

Nepute says that he was raised by a pig farmer in central Illinois and that his parents taught him to "stand up against tyranny." Growing up, he wanted to be a doctor and says he was enrolled in medical school at Northwestern when he suffered a football injury. The pain from the injury lingered until he visited a chiropractor who helped, inspiring Nepute to become a chiropractor himself.

After studying chiropractic medicine at Missouri's Logan University, he earned a Ph.D. in natural medicine from Honolulu's Quantum University, a "self paced, online learning university." He followed that with a certification from the Carrick Institute in quantum neurology, a chiropractic practice described in one Medscape article as "word salad" pseudoscience.

In addition to hosting his morning radio show, Nepute operates wellness centers in Creve Coeur and south county where patients can get an infusion of vitamins or a spinal decompression.

Nepute also owns Wellness Warrior, a company that sells vitamins and supplements, as well as a "Thyroid Masterclass" workshop and books such as The Parasite Cleanse. He has said numerous times on his show that his company is giving away a million bottles of vitamin D and zinc for free.

Nepute is a natural broadcaster with a keen ability to deliver a message with urgency, an energy that can't be easy to sustain for a two-hour broadcast. A prolific user of social media, he often shoots livestreams wearing dark-colored scrubs branded with the Nepute Wellness logo, a medical chart of some sort behind him.

In December, Nepute was in different attire in a slightly different setting. He wore a suit at the federal courthouse in St. Louis, where he waited in a 10th floor lobby in front of a window overlooking Busch Stadium. He is bald, clean-shaven and broad-shouldered and still has the build of guy who played football in college. One room over, Nepute's lawyers were conferring with lawyers from the DOJ, hashing out an agreement to avoid Nepute being held in contempt of court. Despite what was going on in the next room, Nepute came across as affable.

Nepute holds the distinction of being the first person to be sued by the Federal Trade Commission under the COVID-19 Consumer Protection Act, a law that took effect in December 2020. It regulates how products can be advertised in relation to COVID-19. The goal is to prevent unsubstantiated claims that certain products can cure or prevent COVID-19. Whether Nepute's rhetoric merely tests the bounds of this law or tramples it will be decided later this year by a jury of Nepute's peers.

Since getting sued, Nepute has been telling anyone who will listen that he's a victim of tyrannical government. When asked, he said that he couldn't talk about the status of his case, explaining that he didn't want to incur the wrath of his attorneys by talking to the media (though he regularly pops up on right-wing media to talk about it). Instead, he mentions his website, (He might have thought twice about that URL.) The website's landing page features a graphic of Nepute standing in front of a pair of jack-booted thugs, a strip of duct tape over his mouth, censored and silenced.

On a recent podcast, Nepute referred to the COVID-19 Consumer Protection Act, the law he's allegedly run afoul of, as "a brand-new law that nobody knew about until I was sued for half a trillion dollars."

Nepute says that the government is trying to bankrupt him just for merely suggesting people take vitamins to stay healthy.

But suggesting people take vitamins is only part of the story.

click to enlarge Eric Nepute would live stream medical advice on Facebook before he got his radio show. He also has YouTube videos about wellness.
Eric Nepute would live stream medical advice on Facebook before he got his radio show. He also has YouTube videos about wellness.

In December 2018, prior to becoming an FM radio host, Nepute live streamed via his public-figure Facebook page. Many of these live streams have since been deleted, but by 2020, if not sooner, he was interspersing his monologues on health, wellness and nutrition with advertisements encouraging his listeners to buy vitamins from Wellness Warrior, the company he owns.

Even those dubious about his credentials or the underlying science of some of his claims would be hard-pressed to question his sincerity. He says he gathered his information from years of working as a chiropractor. He only occasionally veers into the overheated bombast that right-wing talk radio is known for, and in such cases it is almost always the topic of the FTC lawsuit that brought him there.

The FTC is tasked with enforcing laws against deceptive advertising and other fraudulent business practices. It couldn't care less what Nepute thinks about vitamins or anything else. But it cares a great deal how Wellness Warrior advertises its products. In hawking his vitamins, the FTC says, Nepute disseminated misinformation and exploited fears in the midst of a pandemic.

In March 2020, the vaccine-to-be-skeptical-of was a long way away. But Nepute was dubious of the need for lockdowns, saying that the pandemic shouldn't even qualify as a pandemic. The virus, he said, would be nothing to worry about so long as people took their high-dose infusions of vitamin C and saw a good chiropractor.

"You don't need to be sitting at home right now scared that you're going to die from some virus," he added. "You know what you need to do? Get yourself adjusted. Get yourself your vitamins."

In May of 2020, the FTC, which issues regulations specifically focused on advertising on social media, sent Nepute a letter warning him that he was making "unsubstantiated claims" on his show.

Nepute ignored the warning and kept live streaming.

Then in April 2021, the FTC again contacted Nepute, this time in the form of a lawsuit.

Crucially, in between the warning letter and the lawsuit, Donald Trump had signed the COVID-19 Consumer Protection Act into law, making it illegal "to engage in a deceptive act or practice in or affecting commerce associated with the treatment, cure, prevention, mitigation, or diagnosis of COVID–19."

The FTC said Nepute had violated the then-five-month-old law, alleging that he said vitamins "are more effective than the available COVID-19 vaccines."

Nepute has very publicly disputed the FTC's claims, saying numerous times that he's never told anyone not to get the vaccine and that he's never made statements like that in conjunction with advertising his Wellness Warrior products.

"They took my words and lied about them. They said that I told people if you take vitamin D you don't need a vaccine. I never said that," he said in a video.

Anyone listening to Nepute's radio show or live streams has heard him say something to the effect of, "if you want a shot, get a shot." But he's also said that the COVID-19 vaccine is "a genetic-modification therapeutic tool." He has claimed that the mRNA vaccine killed all the cats, ferrets and monkeys unlucky enough to be its test subjects.

Suzanne Alexander, the bureau chief for St. Louis' Communicable Disease Division, tells the RFT that the mRNA vaccine is not altering anyone's DNA. To explain how that vaccine works, she used the analogy of a car engine.

"Let's call the DNA your actual engine. Your mRNA is going to be your fluids that go into your engine, like your oil, your transmission fluid, your brake fluid, all that good stuff. The way you maintain your fluids in your car engine is going to impact the way your engine works, but it will not fundamentally change your engine," she says.

Nepute has also told his listeners that "the vaccine is going to make spike proteins in the brain cells and the lungs, in the testicles, in every tissue in your body. So it's pretty crazy. We need to stop those spike proteins from being attached and sticking to the cells. Vitamin D stops that. So that's why I'm such a big fan of vitamin D and zinc."

Nepute is not totally wrong. The spike protein is a feature of the coronavirus, and the mRNA does create spike proteins in your body. But this is precisely why the vaccine works, according to the CDC. Over the course of a few weeks, your immune system learns how to destroy these spike proteins so that if the COVID-19 virus shows up in your body, your immune system will know how to destroy it.

The FTC says that Nepute is free to express whatever he wants about spike proteins, mRNA, vitamins and the vaccine as a journalist, a chiropractor or just a regular person with opinions. But he's not free to make these statements in the context of advertising.

In the same broadcast in which he talked about spike proteins going into your testicles and the ferrets who died from the mRNA tests, he also encouraged listeners 11 times to go to

Nepute's attorneys have said in court filings that they believe the case is government overreach overly reliant on selective snippets of videos and audio taken from broadcasts that sometimes ran for two hours.

Nepute's attorneys also cite mainstream medical experts talking about the benefits of vitamins during the pandemic. One filing quotes Dr. Anthony Fauci, Trump's former chief medical advisor, who said during a September 2020 Instagram Live event that, "If you are deficient in vitamin D, that does have an impact on your susceptibility to infection. So I would not mind recommending, and I do it myself, taking vitamin D supplements."

Filings also reference the National Institutes of Health's website, which says, "Your immune system needs vitamin D to fight off invading bacteria and viruses."

When the FTC filed its lawsuit in April 2021, it asked the judge to issue a preliminary injunction against Nepute. To avoid this, Nepute agreed to a consent order in which he didn't concede any wrongdoing but did agree he wouldn't broadcast certain claims in connection to Wellness Warrior ads, particularly that vitamins could be used to "cure, mitigate, treat or prevent COVID-19."

Both parties signed onto those terms on May 5, 2021. Nepute subsequently moved his broadcast to terrestrial radio, and the government says that over those FM airwaves he violated his end of the agreement.

On February 4, 2022, Nepute acknowledged on his radio show that the government was taking action against him and then said, "Here's a big old up your nose with a rubber hose, federal government. Have a listen to this. Brand-new study confirms that vitamin D significantly, significantly reduces the risk of dying from COVID-19."

That same broadcast Nepute said that vitamin D is "a hell of a lot more beneficial than these shots that people are taking." He added: "Federal government asked me not to do this anymore and so, here's what I'm going to say to them. Uh, go to That's"

Dr. Erik Dubberke, a professor at Washington University School of Medicine, has evaluated Nepute's claims on behalf of the government, and he's written that Nepute's on-air statements are often based on single studies, which Nepute ignores many key aspects of while mischaracterizing their results.

In addition to being an MD, Dubberke is an epidemiologist as well as the medical director of infection prevention and control at Missouri Baptist Medical Center. In court filings, he went through many of Nepute's statements about vitamins and COVID-19, again and again labeling them as misleading.

According to Dubberke, Nepute commonly takes a study that has found an interesting correlation — for instance, between vitamin D levels and a person's likelihood of catching COVID-19 — and communicates it to his audience as if it has proved a causation.

Like Dubberke, Suzanne Alexander with the city's Communicable Disease Division is significantly less bullish on vitamin D than Nepute is. She points out that COVID-19 tends to hit worse in the winter when people are inside, so it makes sense that patients hospitalized with COVID-19 after those winter waves would have low vitamin D. Also, she says, taking vitamin megadoses comes with its own risks.

"There is a problem called hypercalcemia," she says, referring to a buildup of calcium in the blood, caused by taking too much vitamin D, which can potentially lead to severe kidney issues.

"If you have someone who is saying, 'Take megadoses of vitamins,' and that person has not done their due diligence by having blood tests taken first, you've got someone who is essentially saying, 'I don't know what your biochemistry is, but here, take this drug,'" Alexander says.

Over the past year, Nepute has become something of a cause célèbre in corners of the internet where people are skeptical of the federal government's response to COVID-19. He's appeared on numerous conservative podcasts and radio shows, saying he's a victim of censorship and that the government is afraid to go to trial so instead is trying to bankrupt him through legal fees.

He's spent $3.5 million on his legal defense so far, he says, and expects to spend a million more. Donations can be made to his website, he adds.

Many fringe media outlets have run headlines about how the federal government is suing Nepute for half a trillion dollars. That figure, which is about 2 percent of the country's entire GDP for last year, seems absurd on its face. But as is often the case with Nepute, there is a soupçon of truth in the statement.

The FTC charged Nepute with more than 10 million violations of the COVID-19 Consumer Protection Act — 10,175,234, to be exact — and wouldn't reveal how it arrived at this exact number.

Court filings from the FTC state that the maximum penalty for each violation is $43,792.

Put those two numbers together and, purely in theory, Nepute could be on the hook for something like half a trillion dollars.

In actuality, that's not going to happen. The FTC says that when it assesses how much an individual defendant should pay, it takes into account the amount of money fraud victims were taken for as well as what would be appropriate punitive fines.

The biggest fine in FTC history is $5 billion against Facebook. Nepute will not be coughing up 100 times more than Mark Zuckerberg and company did. Fines in the dietary supplement area tend to be in the hundreds of thousands, and the figures are typically lower in cases where the defendant is an individual and not a behemoth corporation.

But all that hasn't stopped Nepute from saying, in the third person, "Here's what the government of the United States of America told us: 'We drew our sword against Dr. Nepute. We're not putting our sword away until there's blood on it.'"

The martyrdom and federal prosecution could be lending Nepute legitimacy. Real Talk with Dr. Nepute airs on a station with shows from former Fox News anchor Bill O'Reilly, Trump lawyer Rudy Guiliani, and the man who is believed to have originated the idea that Biden's electoral victory was made possible by fake ballots printed on Chinese bamboo paper. Among this crowd, there is no greater imprimatur of street cred than having the screws put to you by the feds.

In many ways, Nepute's case isn't that different from typical FTC lawsuits.

In 2013, the agency went after the makers of POM Wonderful for claims the company made about the juice curing prostate cancer. The FTC prevailed and the juice makers had to pay a fine.

In 2019, the agency sued the makers of a jellyfish extract supplement, arguing their advertisements claimed the capsules cured dementia. That one was dismissed by the judge before trial.

However, assuming Nepute's case makes it to trial, it will be wholly unlike most FTC cases because pomegranate juice and jellyfish pills haven't become politically polarized in the same way the vaccine has.

It's going to be very difficult to find jurors who don't have strongly held beliefs about the pandemic. Poll after poll has found that someone's beliefs about the danger of COVID-19, the efficacy and safety of the vaccine and the government's response to the pandemic depend in large part on what political party the person prefers.

Alicia Campbell, an attorney who studies juries and who has argued many cases in federal court, says that it's up to the judge to determine what questions can be asked of potential jurors during jury selection.

"This is a really interesting case because it does implicate jurors a little more personally," she says. "You've either affirmatively chosen to get a vaccine or you have affirmatively chosen not to. And that's very personal. It's not like deciding a case over a car wreck."

She says that attorneys would likely want to know a potential juror's vaccine status, but there's a good chance the judge wouldn't allow such a question to be asked.

Campbell also adds that even though this isn't technically a First Amendment case, "I would think, for people who are anti-vaxxers, it could seem like it is."

Court filings suggest that the government may call Dubberke, the Washington University professor of medicine, as an expert witness, but he likely won't be the only medical doctor to testify.

One name that Nepute's attorneys will likely bring up in the courtroom is that of Boston University researcher Michael Holick.

One of the statements Nepute made that the FTC sited in its suit was, "Boston University's Dr. Michael Holick found ... that people who have enough vitamin D are 54 percent less likely to catch coronavirus in the first place."

The complaint against Nepute says that he was telling his audience the study found a causation between vitamin D and not catching COVID-19 when in fact the study's only finding was that it established "further rationale to explore" a possible causal relationship.

However, Holick's own comments to his hometown newspaper seem to be not at all that different from what Nepute is being taken to court for saying.

"The higher your vitamin D status, [the] lower was your risk," Holick told the Boston Herald in September 2020. "I think that the message is that everyone should consider improving their vitamin D status — especially in the era of COVID, by taking a vitamin D supplement," Holick said to another Boston news radio station around that same time.

An important distinction is that Holick isn't saying those statements in the context of advertising. But still, it's not hard to imagine what that will look like to a jury of Nepute's Missouri peers.

We welcome tips and feedback. Email the author at [email protected] or follow on Twitter at @RyanWKrull.

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