Disinformation doctors and nurses attack Team Halo
Another incident in a concerning pattern of targeted attacks by political disinformers
While Dr. Aaron Kheriaty argues against accountability for fellow disinformation doctors with his Koch-funded fight against AB2098, his “The Unity Project” colleague Dr. Peter McCullough has just launched an attack on Team Halo, the counter-misinformation project from the United Nations Verified Initiative. McCullough - who has trademarked himself - posted an article on his Substack by a “John Leake” titled “Team Halo: The UN's Medical Goon Squad”.
In the short piece, Leake references reporting on Team Halo done by the Epoch Times, the pro-Trump outlet tied to the Falun Gong extremist anti-communist cult out of China and a favorite of the disinformation doctors in addition to the Brownstone Institute. He also discusses pro-ivermectin American Frontline Nurses front woman Nicole Sirotek who participated in Senator Ron Johnson’s Covid panels (like McCullough), has hosted the likes of pro-ivermectin FLCCC’s Dr. Mary “Nuremberg 2.0” Talley Bowden and Defeat the Mandates organizer Steve Kirsch on her podcast, got caught trying to pass off a Burning Man medical tent photo as her “global health” field work, and was removed from her Nevada Board of Nursing position after organizing by nurses on social media only to subsequently hawk merchandise depicting a nurse critical of her inside a toilet (wish I was kidding). So that’s Nicole.
The post on McCullough’s Substack particularly calls out Team Halo member Dr. Jon, a Canadian physician who has made TikTok videos mocking the “Courageous Discourse” doctor who blocks everyone on Twitter. Reminder, McCullough was revealed in the HART leaks to have been chosen by far-right politicians for his willingness to lie on camera. The memo ends with a note about Narcissus and Fascism and, again, I must remind you that McCullough - who is on some of the fraudulent ivermectin for Covid studies and is a shameless grifter - has trademarked himself and aligned with Steve Bannon.
The article from the Epoch Times/Falun Gong is unsurprisingly biased to support people like McCullough and Sirotek, who tweeted it out while claiming to be a victim of “stochastic” terrorism by Team Halo and others critical of her. She is, of course, just trying to help “low income and minority patients” (at Burning Man?) while also doxxing her critics (see also: stochastic terrorism).
Pro-hydroxychloroquine America’s Frontline Doctors’s insurrectionist leading lady Dr. Simone Gold - who makes films depicting opposition as Nazis - has used the poor as a crutch similarly, characterizing her pre-pandemic work in Los Angeles as a “low-income, gang-ridden majority-minority city that provided the setting for the tough 1991 drama Boyz N the Hood”. Gold would go on to work with Robert F. Kennedy Jr., whose anti-vax charity empire made a film specifically targeting the black population and illegally donated money to the Republican Attorney General Association. AFLDS was created by the secretive, far-right Council for National Policy for Trump with Bowden’s FLCCC as an ivermectin spin-off. AFLNS appears to be another spin-off using similarly desperate techniques of lying for politics and silencing all opposition. Some might call that fascist.
As we have argued, the delay in medical board action against Simone Gold and her ilk’s disinformation has had deadly consequences on public health and has led to further division politically. Medical board inaction has also delayed action by the nursing boards and has allowed people like Nicole Sirotek to thrive online and in extremist politics. This latest lie by McCullough and Sirotek has led to a wave of threats to members of Team Halo and others who have called out their history of spreading disinformation. This is very much being encouraged by the disinformation clinicians. It follows in a concerning, desperate pattern of targeted attacks on truth and science-based healthcare workers, including the fake tweet debacle suffered by Dr. Natalia Solenkova and the swastika delivery to Dr. Peter Hotez’s home. Those of us that advocated for California accountability bill AB2098 heard the Nuremberg threats lobbed at the doctors arguing on behalf of the proposed legislation and saw the Truckers targeting proponents like California State Senator Dr. Richard Pan. We expected things to get worse if allowed to and, lo and behold, they are. We tried to warn but we were silenced.
I would like to use this space to highlight the story of Tyler Kuhk, one of the nurses who organized to expose Sirotek’s lies, as a counterbalance to some extremely histrionic, deceptive work from the Epoch Times and associates. Here is his story, in his words, of what has happened to him at the hands of the American Frontline Nurses “leader”.
When advocacy becomes dangerous; where do we go from here?
Tyler Kuhk, MN, ARNP, CCRN-K, AGNP-C
Provision 3 of the ANA Nursing Code of Ethics talks about how nurses “must be alert to and must take appropriate action in all instances of incompetent, unethical, illegal or impaired practice or actions that place the rights or best interests of the patient in jeopardy” and that “some situations are sufficiently egregious as to warrant the notification of involvement of all such groups and/or law enforcement”.
When I think of the world we live in now, especially with regards to social media and the ever-increasing transfer of information, it is more than understandable that these ethical principles that guide our practice as nurses should encompass calling out, correcting and bringing awareness to disinformation campaigns spearheaded by nurses on social media who are driven by ideology and not by reality. These ideologies are harmful to the public and damage our autonomous, science based profession’s reputation.
This is exactly what I set out to do on social media several years ago; and while there have been several successes in terms of reaching vaccine hesitant individuals, providing factual information to the public and in some cases, even accountability for those spreading disinformation, the lack of support from professional nursing organizations, regulatory agencies and other nursing institutions is setting those of us up in the field who are fighting against this dangerous rhetoric, to fail.
My story begins in February 2022, when I became aware of a tax-exempt “charity” organization known as American Frontline Nurses (AFLN), led by now formerly licensed Nevada nurse, Nicole Sirotek. Not only was this tax-exempt “charity” organization involved in excessive lobbying against COVID-19 vaccines and public health measures (e.g., vaccine mandates, masks, etc), they also used their platform and the protected and respected title of “nurse” to disseminate a plethora of harmful misinformation related to COVID-19 and childhood vaccines, to things like breast cancer screening recommendations and encouraging others to fake their allergies. They also spearheaded several coordinated harassment attacks of other medical professionals and health care organizations. The ongoing vilification of hard working evidence based medical professionals disgusted me.
The worst part about all of this? The leader of this organization, at the time, was a twice-board appointed Nursing Practice Advisory Committee member, on the Nevada State Board of Nursing (NVBON), a publicly accountable government agency that is supposed to protect the public by ensuring nurses are competent and that they provide safe, evidence based care.
This did not sit well with many others and myself, and despite several complaints and concerns sent directly to the NVBON, we were all ignored. From my understanding even prior to my awareness of these issues, others were ignored as well.
In May 2022, when we were made aware of Nicole’s term being renewed on the NVBON Nursing Practice Advisory Committee, several of us decided to develop an awareness campaign to alert both the public and our fellow health care colleagues. We did so using social media, while also fact checking their misleading information, criticizing their LGBTQ-phobic rhetoric and pointing out the dangers of their beyond scope of practice nursing services that were being marketed to the public, liability free under the guise of “advocacy”. A $120/hour fee for cardiology consultations by RNs? Hmm.
When we continued to bring forward concerns to the NVBON, a publicly accountable government agency, several of us were blocked from their social media page and had our comments deleted. Some staff members informed concerned citizens that their concerns were “opinions” and were even hung up on. This was not going to be an easy endeavour, and suffice to say, constituted something so egregious that I had a hard time wrapping my mind around the fact that this was actually happening in our profession, let alone in our regulatory leadership. To this day we have not seen a single statement or response to any of our public comments.
After several months and several creators raising awareness and highlighting the numerous examples of blatantly false and damaging health-related and LGBTQ-phobic rhetoric, in addition to false claims of nursing certifications and “saving lives” in third world countries (when in reality pictures of medical tents from Burning Man were just being shared) an investigation was formally launched into Nicole’s license.
The multiple examples of online dishonesty was astounding.
I would soon be publicly doxxed by Nicole to her followers on social media, which resulted in several unsolicited phone calls to my office that week. I would also go on to receive a baseless, threatening legal letter from Nicole’s attorney, Mr. Perry which led to the need for me to retain my own legal counsel to respond to the “meritless” claims made against me.
In October 2022, I was alerted to multiple posts directed at me by Nicole, and would soon find out that she was no longer on the NVBON Nursing Practice Advisory Committee and that her nursing license was “inactive”. During this time I was called a “pedo sympathizer” by her to her followers, my photo was illegally used on merchandise sold by AFLN and a false police report was filed against me that was dismissed by the DA in Elko, NV with police correspondence claiming “no credible threats” were made, which the report accused me of being responsible for. The irony of accusing others of harassment when the perpetrator was doing just that, but keep reading.
Public records would soon indicate that Nicole had voluntarily surrendered her nursing license in lieu of disciplinary action for violating the Nurse Practice Act, even despite a name change she had filed as a result of her claiming to be harassed. Her actions towards me with her relentless and vindictive online harassment and false claims about me felt retaliatory in nature, and my attorneys responded in hopes of finally ending these lies and defamatory statements.
I was naïve to think that in the world we live in today that this would stop. But one can hope. Unsurprisingly, the defamatory statements would only escalate, as would the false victimhood complex that some bullies are so notorious for having. I would now be made out to be a bully, for standing up to one who had been tarnishing our profession, all while serving on a nursing regulatory agency.
Queue the continued doxxing (which social media companies think is totally appropriate, as evidenced by multiple posts still being public). Queue the signups for sex websites. Queue the subscription bombs resulting in dozens of emails a day littering my email with an IP address traced back to Elko, NV. Queue the complaint against my nursing license, which would accuse me of “systematically terrorizing nurses on social media” and “nearly driving Nicole to suicide”, all in an attempt to further smear me publicly and professionally. Meanwhile, during Nicole’s “mental health break” she so desperately needed, her and her organization would continue to spearhead their disinformation campaigns, tell the world that they’ve “single handedly turned the tide of the pandemic” and continue to harass (and stalk) their critics – all while avoiding federal income taxes in the process. That sounds like some real “charity” work to me. IRS, hello?
Being an outspoken and fierce advocate for our profession and public health should never come with this much risk. Where have our professional organizations been to help combat disinformation and support evidence-based nurses fighting against it? Where are our regulatory agencies that are tasked with protecting the public? Pretty little words on paper from the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) aren’t enough. Where is the nursing leadership in this country?
When I reflect on the past year, I have a range of emotions. Yes, I firmly stand by my dedication to this profession and my forthright approach to stand up to bullies, disinformation spreaders and hateful rhetoric. Sometimes, however, it feels as if the risks outweigh the benefits, because personally, professional and financially this begins to take its toll. For the first time in 18 years I am finding that my anxiety and stress need professional attention, but my passion to “fight the good fight” is still burning strong, because that is just who I am.
None of what has transpired over the past year sits well with me, and it completely sums up why so many evidence-based professionals are fed up, exhausted and don’t even bother with this type of advocacy work anymore. There is no incentive for us to do so, and the risks to our safety, well-being and professional reputations don’t seem to be worth any of the limited benefits.
Despite this, I, and many others will always continue to fight for what is right and embrace disruption when warranted. In the meantime, however, something needs to change, and we need to be advocating for that change as loudly as possible.
“All that is required for evil to prevail is for good people to say nothing”
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