'Last Week Tonight': John Oliver on Alex Jones's InfoWars Business Model, Health Products

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John Oliver investigates the Alex Jones business model on "Last Week Tonight." HBO/Last Week Tonight

If you thought there were no more ridiculous bits of trivia to uncover about InfoWars host Alex Jones, think again. On Sunday's Last Week Tonight, John Oliver took a deep dive into the alt-right conspiratorial provocateur's business model, examining how Jones has funded his popular radio show through ham-fisted promoting of "nutri-ceuticals."

Nearly 6 million people tune into Jones's radio show or watch it online each week, and his cultural signifance has grown since last year's election. President Donald Trump has retweeted InfoWars content on multiple occasions, appeared on the show during the campaign and reportedly called Jones to thank him personally on November 9.

As Oliver makes clear, Jones has little journalistic credibility thanks to his ongoing conspiratorial claims: He's perhaps most infamously known for pushing the theory that the Sandy Hook elementary school massacre was staged by the U.S. government. "That is disgusting, and it should be disqualifying in terms of ever taking him seriously," says Oliver. "Sadly, doing things that disqualify you from being taken seriously doesn't really seem to be much of a thing anymore."

Indeed, it hasn't stopped Jones from hosting a four-hour talk show every week, nor from being backed by the leader of the free world. But from the way Jones tells it, InfoWars' funding and support rests entirely on sales of its tie-in products on InfoWars.com—so much so that he spends nearly a quarter of airtime devoted to promoting the show's online store. Oliver listed some of the site's most noteworthy products, such as survival gear, "tactical bath wipes" and a "Bill Clinton rape whistle," which, after the Last Week Tonight team ordered it, arrived with a "9/11 Was an Inside Job" bumper sticker.

Since 2013, Jones has promoted his own "nutri-ceutical" (a portmanteau of "nutritional pharmaceutical") products under the "InfoWars Life" brand name. According to a report by Spiegel Online, two-thirds of InfoWars' funding comes from this product line. It includes "Super Male" and "Super Female" vitality serums, a coffee blend called "Wake Up America," a $160-a-bottle formula known as "DNA Force," a herbal blend for children called "Child Ease" and a chocolate-flavored, bone-broth-based formula called "Caveman."

As a way of lending credibility to InfoWars Life, Jones frequently brings his medical consultant, Dr. Edward F. Group III, onto the show to downplay claims that his products are a scam. Group also has appeared in ads for various InfoWars formulas, including one called "Living Defense," which he promotes as a way to fend off "refugees spreading disease." ("The CDC is going crazy right now," Group says of the phenomenon, even though there is no evidence to support this.)

But Group himself has dubious credibility. He holds a degree from Texas Chiropractic College, but although he lists five other higher-ed institutions on LinkedIn, Oliver points out that he didn't graduate from any of them; when pressed for comment by Last Week Tonight, he admitted to not having an undergraduate degree. Group repeatedly refers to himself as an "MIT alum" on InfoWars, but Oliver reveals that he only completed a "non-degree certificate program" at the institution, and that representatives from MIT told Last Week Tonight that referring to Group as an alumnus would be "inaccurate and misleading."

Additionally, Oliver points out Jones's habit of "bending over backwards" to defend the various health-beneficial claims he makes about his supplements. In one extended promotional segment, Jones refers to a product as "organic," then backtracks to say that while it is made of organic materials, it is actually GMO. "But it's not like the super high-tech stuff," says Jones. "It's just like bacteria that's been bred to secrete and produce.... It's just like beer is bacteria. There's a lot of good bacteria, obviously.... That's how the Japanese do it." And then, most confusingly of all: "This stuff is only found in comets. And trace amounts in blueberries."

Jones also has been known to sell products at much higher prices than their market value. Oliver points to one egregious example: a 1-oz. bottle of vitamin D3 that, on Jones's site, can be purchased for $29.95. The same bottle can be purchased on other sites for $3.93. Jones works around this by claiming that his products are of higher quality than those of the competition, or by telling his listeners that health products bought at "big chain" stores "will kill you."

During his recent prime-time interview with Megyn Kelly, Jones claimed that it cost $45 million to $50 million a year to keep InfoWars running, and that all of the money from InfoWars.com sales goes back into supporting the show. Oliver compares Jones's frequent hounding of listeners to buy products to "an NPR pledge drive for people who hate NPR," as Jones would have you believe that every penny counts in keeping the program running. But an extensive BuzzFeed investigation published in May paints a different picture. One former employee claimed that Jones "can sell 500 supplements in an hour.... It's like the QVC for conspiracy." And Oliver's team, while watching archived episodes of InfoWars, discovered that Jones appeared to own two Rolex watches, each worth about $8,000.

"Here's the thing: That's honestly fine," says Oliver. "He can have watches. There is nothing wrong with him getting paid—I get paid to make this show. But it does fight with his message that he needs you to buy products to help keep his show going."

Oliver points to a recent segment where after Jones makes the claim that the government is "feminizing" the population by polluting drinking water with certain chemicals, he almost instantly pivots to promoting several water filtration products available on InfoWars.com.

"If Jones wants his words in context, this is it," says Oliver. "The fact that he happens to sell so many solutions should really recontextualize how you think about what he is claiming are problems."