May 1, 2020 - Health

DOJ probes doctor whose hydroxychloroquine claims were touted by Sean Hannity

Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

The Justice Department is probing the communications of Vladimir Zelenko, a New York doctor who has promoted hydroxychloroquine as a coronavirus treatment and has been touted by Fox News host Sean Hannity, the Washington Post reports.

How it happened: Jerome Corsi, a Roger Stone associate and former Infowars employee who had been under scrutiny in the Mueller investigation, accidentally emailed federal prosecutor Aaron Zelinsky instead of Zelenko about the drug.

  • Zelinsky, who investigated Corsi during the Mueller probe, now investigates coronavirus-related fraud crimes for the U.S. attorney's office in Maryland. Corsi told the Post that Zelinsky then emailed Corsi's lawyer to request all of his communications with Zelenko.
  • In the email, Corsi wrote that Zelenko had "an FDA-approved randomized test of [hydroxychloroquine] underway."
  • Corsi told the Post that Zelinsky found that Zelenko had no such approval from the FDA — and that he believes Zelenko was not trying to defraud anyone, but simply misunderstood the FDA's guidelines.

What they're saying: Corsi said that he and Zelenko have not broken the law and added that he plans to cooperate with Zelinsky's request.

  • "I did nothing wrong. Zelenko made a mistake. He's got no case and we're following all the rules," Corsi told the Post.
  • Corsi's attorney confirmed what happened to the Post, while an attorney working with Zelenko said he had not been contacted by federal prosecutors.

The big picture: President Trump has repeatedly touted hydroxychloroquine as a potential "game-changer" for treating the coronavirus, though public health experts caution that the drug's efficacy has not been proven.

  • Fox News' Sean Hannity discussed Zelenko's hydroxychloroquine work during a March panel on his show. During that show, he also mentioned a letter from "a doctor in the New York area" about hydroxychloroquine during an interview with Vice President Mike Pence.
  • Earlier that day, Hannity had interviewed Zelenko on his radio show, saying he believed his hydroxychloroquine claims were "just amazing."
  • Rudy Giuliani also discussed Zelenko's work during an appearance on Laura Ingraham's show in March.

Be smart: While it's unclear how seriously DOJ is scrutinizing the matter, the Post notes that "even passing interest from federal authorities into efforts to promote the anti-malarial is likely to chafe the president and his allies, particularly given the involvement of a former member of Mueller’s team."

Editor’s note: This story has been corrected to reflect the fact that Zelenko’s claims about hydroxychloroquine have been touted by Fox News’ Sean Hannity. Zelenko has not directly appeared on the network.

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