In July 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic had already spread around the world and people panicked (understandably so). Amidst this general anxiety, President Trump thought it would be a good idea to share his ‘little secret’ by promoting the use of hydroxychloroquine to ward off the virus. He explained that the malaria medication was only rejected as a COVID-19 treatment because he had recommended its use and that he was currently taking it himself. As a result, his own public health officials warned that the drug was in fact ineffective against coronavirus and could cause heart problems.
But Trump didn’t listen to them, instead, he took Houston-based doctor Stella Immanuel’s word for it by sharing a viral video of fringe doctors—Immanuel included—touting the controversial anti-malarial drug as “a cure for COVID.” The video, which also featured the doctors dismissing mask-wearing, was eventually taken down by Facebook for “sharing false information” about the virus, after racking up millions of views in a matter of hours.
Several right-wing outlets and personalities, however, continued to promote the clip of the doctors’ press conference on Twitter, eventually reaching the president’s timeline. Trump not only shared this video a couple of times on Twitter, but he also went on to share several other posts promoting hydroxychloroquine.
Trump then shared a tweet directly from Immanuel, one of the physicians who took part in the press conference. Immanuel, a paediatrician and a religious minister, has a history of making bizarre claims about medical topics and other issues. She has often claimed that gynaecological problems like cysts and endometriosis are in fact caused by people having sex in their dreams with demons and witches.
She also alleges alien DNA is currently used in medical treatments, and that scientists are cooking up a vaccine to prevent people from being religious. And, despite appearing in Washington, D.C. to lobby Congress on Monday, she has said that the government is run in part not by humans but by “reptilians” and other aliens. Immanuel also challenged CNN anchors and top infectious disease expert Dr Anthony Fauci to provide her with urine samples.
In her viral speech on the steps of the Supreme Court, which was organised by the right-wing group Tea Party Patriots (which is backed by wealthy Republican donors), Immanuel alleged that she had successfully treated hundreds of patients with hydroxychloroquine. Studies failed to find proof that the drug had any benefit in treating COVID-19, and in June 2020, the FDA revoked its emergency authorisation to use it to treat the deadly virus, saying it hadn’t demonstrated any effect on patients’ mortality prospects.
“Nobody needs to get sick,” Immanuel said. “This virus has a cure.” She added that the supposed potency of hydroxychloroquine as a treatment means that protective face masks aren’t necessary, claiming that she and her staff had avoided contracting COVID-19 despite wearing medical masks instead of the more secure N95 masks.
Toward the end of her speech, the event’s organiser and other participants could be seen trying to get her away from the microphone. But footage of the speech captured by Breitbart was a hit online, becoming a top video on Facebook and amassing significantly more views than Plandemic, another coronavirus disinformation video that became a viral hit online in May.
Both Facebook and Twitter eventually deleted videos of Immanuel’s speech from their platforms, citing rules against COVID-19 disinformation. But Immanuel responded in her own way, declaring that Jesus Christ would destroy Facebook’s servers if her videos weren’t restored to the platform.
Although it was never explicitly stated by Immanuel, one could only assume that she also believes in other major conspiracy theories such as Frazzledrip and QAnon. But among the other ludicrous medical claims the doctor has posted about online, two stood out.
In articles published on her website, Immanuel claims that medical issues like endometriosis, cysts, infertility, and impotence are caused by sex with “spirit husbands” and “spirit wives”—a phenomenon she describes as witches and demons having sex with people in a dreamworld.
“We call them all kinds of names—endometriosis, we call them molar pregnancies, we call them fibroids, we call them cysts, but most of them are evil deposits from the spirit husband. They are responsible for miscarriages, impotence—men that can’t get it up,” says Immanuel in her sermon.
She claims real-life ailments such as fibroid tumours and cysts stem from the demonic sperm after demon dream sex, an activity she claims affects “many women.” According to her, demons turn into women and then sleep with the man to collect his sperm. After that, the same demons turn into men and sleep with women to deposit the sperm collected previously and reproduce more of themselves.
The Daily Beast reports, “According to Immanuel, people can tell if they have taken a demonic spirit husband or spirit wife if they have a sex dream about someone they know or a celebrity, wake up aroused, stop getting along with their real-world spouse, lose money, or generally experience any hardship. Alternately, they could just be having dream-sex with a human witch instead of a demon, she posits.”
Sometimes, those spirits can be witches and not demons: “There are those that are called astral sex. That means this person is not really a demon being or a nephilim. It’s just a human being that’s a witch, and they astral project and sleep with people.”
And Immanuel’s strange claims don’t stop at sperm-stealing demons; in a sermon posted in 2015 that laid out a supposed Illuminati plan hatched by “a witch” to destroy the world using abortion, gay marriage, and children’s toys, Immanuel claimed that DNA from space aliens is currently being used in medicine.
In another video posted that same year, Immanuel claimed that scientists had plans to install microchips in people, and develop a “vaccine” to make it impossible to become religious. “They found the gene in somebody’s mind that makes you religious, so they can vaccinate against it,” Immanuel said.
Her wild claims extend to politics too, and the doctor has also claimed that “people that are ruling this nation are not even human,” describing them instead as “reptilian spirits” that are “half-human, half-ET.”
Her clear religious beliefs have also led her to promote anti-LGBT views. Shortly before the Supreme Court legalised gay marriage in the US, Immanuel warned her ‘followers’ that gay marriage meant that “very soon people are going to be seeking to marry children” and accused gay Americans of practising “homosexual terrorism.” She continued by praising a father’s decision to not love his transgender son after a gender transition.
“You know the crazy part?” Immanuel said. “The little girl demands he must love her anyway. Really? You will not get it from me, I’d be like ‘Little girl, when you come back to be a little girl again, but you talk—for now, I’m gone.’”
The cherry on top? Immanuel has praised corporal punishment for children. “Children need to be whipped,” she declared in a 2015 sermon, before adding that she didn’t think children should be “abused.”
As worrying as Immanuel’s claims sound, this should be a reminder of exactly what Trump supporters choose to believe in and proclaim online. My aim is not to attack Immanuel personally but more to highlight the important part Trump played in the spread of lies and conspiracy theories. 20 January can’t come soon enough.