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How intactivists exploited the Coronavirus

October 28, 2020

"We've never had an opportunity like this to force our will on the people."

The Coronavirus pandemic has affected every country on earth. The numbers are astronomical: as of the date of this article more than 44 million people worldwide have been infected and nearly 1.2 million have died. Entire nations shut down in an attempt to control the spread. Unemployment rates reached historic levels, and there have been fears of a global depression. By early May a senior editor of foreign policy at Slate predicted that the coronavirus "is likely to be remembered as the first truly global event in human history". [1] The repercussions of this pandemic will affect human civilization for decades.

In the midst of this global catastrophe, there was no pause by the intactivist movement. Their actions were shocking, yet predictable. Some intactivists cheered for the spread of the virus. Others dismissed it as a hoax or conspiracy. They tried to interfere with hospitals that continued to offer elective circumcision. They cited the virus to generate donations for their campaign. One prominent intactivist leader used the rapidly changing situation as an opportunity to discredit medical authorities. What follows is a summary of the intactivist responses during the first few months that the pandemic afflicted the United States.

Some intactivists cheered for the virus

Anti-circumcision activists began by pondering how the pandemic would affect the anti-circumcision movement. As initial deaths were reported in the U.S. and several states shut down, intactivists responded with appreciation - expecting that the Coronavirus would halt circumcision procedures and kill people who performed or supported the procedure.

  • "There could be a silver lining to the coronavirus pandemic." - Ken Satisfka

  • "Maybe corona could be good for something after all?" - Melissa Hodge (March 14)

  • "Does anyone else hope that the current COVID-19 crisis will stop ... [circumcision]?" - Frances Maxant (March 19)

  • "Since most mohels are on the older side, they're at high risk of dying from it.😊" - Mitchell Kaufmann (March 19)

  • "We've never had an opportunity like this to force our will on the people." - Rediate Yohannes (March 28)

Intactivists celebrated the March 24 death of Avraham Romi Cohn, a prominent rabbi, mohel, and Holocaust survivor. At the age of 16, Cohn joined the underground resistance and helped save 56 Jewish families from the Nazis. Cohn had performed thousands of circumcisions, for which he had refused payment. [2] [3] Upon reading the article announcing Cohn's death, Blood Stained Men director James Loewen called him a "serial child molester", while others wished that he suffered. [4]

A few days later longtime intactivist Robbie Tvetkov announced that the Corona had taken the life of his 73 year-old father in New York City. Apparently a deadly virus doesn't distinguish between people based on a pro-circumcision or anti-circumcision agenda.

They wasted the time of hospitals and government agencies

In order to prevent a health care overload like the one that had overwhelmed hospitals in Italy, in March several state governors issued directives for hospitals to postpone non-urgent surgical procedures. The U.S. Surgeon General and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services concurred. [5][6] The CMS explained the reasons for postponing non-urgent procedures:

• to encourage patients to stay at home,

• to preserve personal protective equipment, beds, and ventilators for Covid-19 care,

• to free up health care professionals to care for patients who are most in need

Intactivists pounced on these recommendations, erroneously believing that they included a (temporary) ban on circumcision. Marilyn Milos of NOCIRC argued with staff at Marin General Hospital, tying up the phone line and restricting the ability of callers with actual medical issues to reach the facility. [7]

Intact America spent more than $7,500 to send 8,000 letters to hospitals in early April demanding that they cancel (not postpone) newborn circumcisions. [8] The group falsely stated that the Surgeon General had asked hospitals to stop elective surgeries. (In fact the recommendation was to postpone such procedures.) Intactivists called hospitals and organized a campaign to tattle on hospitals to state and federal agencies.

On April 15 Intact America created a petition to ask the U.S. surgeon general to "tell doctors and hospitals to STOP [performing circumcisions]". In fact the surgeon general has no authority to issue such a demand, as medical procedures are regulated by the states. [9] Moreover infant circumcisions would not affect a hospital's ability to serve other patients. Two weeks earlier the American Academy of Pediatrics had stated that hospitals should continue to provide circumcisions for healthy baby boys upon request. [10]

George Vockovic, an associate producer of American Circumcision, was one of just a handful of intactivists who understood the purpose of the recommendations made by the surgeon-general and the CDC. He wrote, "Minimal PPE is often used during RIC anyway. Usually just gloves, no gown, hat, mask, face shield, etc." [11]

Celebrity philanthropists stepped up to the plate

In March and April, several public figures donated generously toward the fight against the Coronvirus. They included three prominent American philanthropists who are despised by intactivists.

On April 2 Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates pledged billions to develop a vaccine. [12] That same day talk show host Oprah Winfrey pledged $10 million for Coronavirus relief. The next day pop superstar Pink announced that her family had been quarantined for three weeks after she and her son had tested positive for the Coronavirus. Pink pledged a total of $1 million for testing and relief in Philadelphia and Los Angeles.

The intactivist movement responded to these generous donations with silence. Meanwhile they continued their own unending fundraising efforts. Not to provide relief or find a vaccine. Rather to erect anti-circumcision highway billboards and fund Kenneth Hopkins's trips around North America to stalk and assault doctors and nurses.

During April Intact America used the Coronavirus crisis as a pretext to make several donation appeals. On April 6 Intact America announced that it had sent almost 8,000 letters to hospitals demanding that they stop circumcisions. [13] Ten days later the group posted a fundraising video in which Georganne Chapin explained "how the coronavirus pandemic is giving new energy to the intactivist movement." [14][15]

Using misinformation to attack the U.S. health care system

Back in February we posted about the disgraced intactivist physician Eugene Gu., who falsely claimed that circumcised patients routinely go into shock. Gu had used sockpuppet accounts to promote himself for personal and professional benefit. He does not have a medical license due to his poor performance and conduct during residency.

In January and February Gu made a series of irresponsible tweets about the Coronavirus. He downplayed the severity of the threat, claimed that facemasks are ineffective, declared that children are "virtually untouched" by the virus, and understated the incubation period. [16-33] Without apparent awareness of the irony, Gu lectured his followers to rely on "facts and evidence alone - not sensationalism and innuendo".

One month later Gu attacked the U.S. health care system as "one of the worst health systems" in the world. He based that statement on a comparison between the number of cases in the U.S. and those in China. [34] A factchecker called The Meme Policeman refuted Gu's statement, saying, "This statement from Dr. Gu is completely in bad faith and fallacious logic (seems to be a reoccurring pattern with him)." The factchecker pointed out that some of the data Gu used was dubious because circumstances were changing rapidly and because the the Chinese government had censored information about the Coronavirus, making the government-approved data unreliable. [35]

A movie producer tried to discredit the medical establishment

As various states in the U.S. were shutting down, the producer of the anti-circumcision documentary American Circumcision attempted to use the pandemic to discredit medical organizations that intactivists had long seen as adversarial to their agenda. Brendon Marotta wanted to refute the idea that medical information from medical experts is more accurate and reliable than information that is posted online by non-medics and shared via social media users. He published a tweet boasting, "My 'google search' better prepared me for #COVID19 than your 'expert' organizations. #Coronavirus has revealed that this argument is not only wrong, but dangerous. It costs people their lives." Three days later he wrote, "This is the greatest collapse of trust in the medical establishment in our time and many #i2 activists [intactivists] are sleeping on it."

The next day Marotta published a hysterical blog post warning that the medical establishment had made several false statements about the Coronavirus. He asked, "If a person with no credentials [Brendon Marotta] could see this issue clearer than them [CDC and WHO] and was better prepared than their organizations, of what use were their credentials? [36]

Marotta argued that since medical authorities have made statements about the coronavirus that turned out to be inaccurate, such authorities have lost all credibility and should not be trusted on other matters. In particular Marotta sought to discredit the CDC and WHO regarding the agencies' policies and statements about circumcision.

The current pandemic has seen a rapidly changing situation of global magnitude. New information was being released weekly, even daily in some cases. This information was based on the latest data available. The Chinese government censored medical information and punished Chinese doctors who had tried to sound the alarm. A lot of false information was spread by "independent sources." By contrast, researchers conducting most scientific studies, including studies about circumcision, do not have a sense of urgency. Consequently such studies can take weeks or months to complete, which allows a greater likelihood of accuracy. Published studies are then available for peer review, adding an additional layer of analysis.

Ironically Brendon Marotta's standard would discredit the intactivist movement. It's true that the Surgeon General initially said that masks don't provide protection. You know who else said that? Eugene Gu, whose January 6 tweet about a "growing cancer in the medical community" was retweeted by Brendon Marotta. Intact America's Dan Bollinger also said that masks don't work. The same Dan Bollinger featured in American Circumcision.

It gets worse. On March 22 Marotta bragged that he "was prepared for the COVID-19 pandemic back in February due to the work of independent sources like Chernovich and Balaji Srinivasan." [37] First, if Marotta was concerned about the Coronavirus, he never warned his followers about the looming pandemic before March 6. Not one Facebook post about the use of masks for protection. Not one tweet correcting the misinformation from WHO, the U.S Department of Health, or fellow intactivists Gu and Bollinger. [38]

Second, five days after his "I was prepared" tweet, Marotta complained that Amazon had cancelled his March 17 order for dust masks. If Marotta had been prepared for the pandemic, he wouldn't need to order them - because he would already have stocked up on a supply of protective equipment. [39]

Marotta's credibility was further destroyed based on a February 25 comment he posted on his Facebook page. When a commenter compared the death toll from the flu, Marotta replied that the issue "isn't the virus. It's the supply chains being disrupted." [40] This statement turned out to be absurd. Marotta was absolutely wrong. The issue was the virus - its exponential spread, its crippling effects on health, and the crippling effects of lockdowns on the economy. As of this article nearly 9 million Americans have been infected and more than 225,000 have died. Yet the supply chains that deliver food and medicine to the American public were never even threatened. Grocery stores and pharmacies remained full of most food and drug products. To use Marotta's own words, this evidence should cause the greatest collapse of trust in himself and the intactivist movement.

A protest leader promoted a bizarre conspiracy theory

Blood Stained Men director James Loewen was among those spreading a fringe conspiracy theory - known as QAnon - that billionaire Bill Gates and the pharmaceutical industry were using the pandemic to promote vaccines. [41] Loewen himself refused to wear a facemask, and he encouraged others to reject facemasks and social distancing. [42] He claimed that global health organizations were intentionally deceiving the public in order to create "a mandatory world wide vaccine, that digitally connects the recipient (victim) to a matrix." [43]

In June Loewen promoted more absurd QAnon conspiracy theories, including...

  • "Psychopath billionaire George Soros" funded Black Lives Matter protests in order to forment civil unrest; [44]

  • U.S. President Donald Trump was working to uncover "an enormous pedophile ring ... involved in human trafficking, satanic blood rituals, and human sacrifice"; [44]

  • Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her aide Huma Abedin "were filmed ripping off a child's face and wearing it as a mask before drinking the child's blood in a Satanic ritual sacrifice". [45][46]

James Loewen was Brendon Marotta's source for Marotta's false accusations against Circumcision Choice counter-protesters outside the 2016 AAP Conference in San Francisco. [47] Marotta had cited Loewen's fawning review of his documentary, American Circumcision. By Marotta's reasoning cited above, he and his film have no credibility whatsoever.


If the intactivist response to the Coronavirus catastrophe could be summed up in one word, it would be revenge. Circumcision opponents saw the pandemic as an opportunity to enact revenge on their perceived adversaries and to use the crisis to achieve their long-term goals.

Medical authorities make mistakes. And intactivists also make mistakes. The difference is that responsible medical authorities acknowledge and correct their mistakes. Those that don't are held accountable. Intactivists rarely, if ever, acknowledge their mistakes. So far, nobody has held them accountable.

The Meme Policeman factchecker mentioned earlier that scientists making adjustments in a rapidly changing situation actually supports the accuracy of scientific research - in a way that is directly contrary to how the intactivist movement operates. "The fact that scientists change their views as new evidence about a novel virus comes to light is a good thing! It means that scientists are learning and adjusting their views rather than clinging to biases and preconceptions. That's how science works." [48]

[1] Joshua Keating; "COVID-19 Is the First Truly Global Event"; Slate; May 5, 2020

[2] Joseph Berger; "Romi Cohn Saved 56 Jewish Families. Coronavirus Took His Life"; New York Times; March 27, 2020

[4] Bloodstained Men & Their Friends Facebook post; March 29, 2020

[5] Dr. Jerome Adams tweet - March 14, 2020

[7] Marilyn Milos; comment on Fanny Max Facebook post; March 18, 2020

[8] Intact America; comment on its Facebook post; April 13, 2020. "Thus far, Intact America has spent more than $3,578 on email lists and email blasts to hospital administrators and the heads of obstetrics. We have another email blast pending; the cost will be approximately $4000."

[9] Intact America Facebook post; April 15, 2020

[10] Alyson Sulaski Wyckoff; "AAP issues guidance on infants born to mothers with suspected or confirmed COVID-19"; AAP News; April 2, 2020

[11] George Vuckovic; Comment to David J Llewellyn Facebook post; April 5, 2020, 8:39 PM

[12] As of November 17, 2020 the "Bill & Melinda Gates foundation has committed more than $400 million in grants to COVID-19 initiatives, including an additional $70 million for global vaccine distribution." Todd Bishop; "Bill Gates optimistic about COVID vaccine science, worried about ‘dysfunctional’ U.S. distribution"; GeekWire; November 17, 2020

[13] Intact America Facebook post; April 6, 2020 - 10:06 AM and Intact America Facebook post 12:47 PM

[14] Intact America Facebook post: April 16, 2020 [15] Georganne Chapin: "Georganne Chapin COVID-19 Report - April 2020"; YouTube video; April 15, 2020

[16] Eugene Gu tweet, January 21, 2020 - 8:06 AM: The Wuhan coronavirus, 2019-nCoV, likely came from a chikden or bat and has human-to-human transmission. New Diseases can be scary, but sensationalism and panic can cause damage too. With the exception of SARS and MERS, most coronaviruses are mild. Hoping 2019-nCoV is mild, too.

[17] Eugene Gu tweet, January 21, 2020: The Wuhan coronavirus, 2019-nCoV, likely came from a chicken or bat and has human-to-human transmission. New diseases can be scary, but sensationalism and panic can cause damage too. With the exception of SARS and MERS, most coronaviruses are mild. Hoping 2019-nCoV is mild too.

[18] Eugene Gu tweet, January 21, 2020: With the CDC confirming the first cse of the Wuhan coronavirus here in the United States in Seattle, Washington, there are definitely more cases than have been estimated. The virus has an incubation time of 8-10 days so people probably traveled internationally without symptoms.

[19] Eugene Gu tweet January 23, 2020 - 8:57 AM: If you're a media outlet or influencer circulating videos and pictures of Chinese people eating bats or other animals just to get clicks and views while fearmongering about different cultures and the Wuhan coronavirus, then you're both a racist and a dangerous opportunist.

[20] Eugene Gu tweet January 27, 2020 - 10:10 AM: Rumors that the Wuhan coronavirus came from the Level 4 Wuhan National Biosafety Laboratory are both unfounded and incredibly hurtful, especially considering that may people in northeastern China were subjected to cruel medical experiments by Unit 731 during World War II.

[21] Eugene Gu tweet January 27, 2020: By the same token, I know it's scary but we can overcome this coronavirus together. It hasn't spread to this country in meaningful numbers to cause a public health threat here, and as people start to recover in China, it may burn itself out like SARS did.

[22] Eugene Gu tweet, January 30, 2020 - 12:02 PM: The WHO declared that the Wuhan coronavirus is a public health emergency of international concern is appropriate, and we should all take precautions to prevent the spread of the virus. But we can do that without panic or fearmongering, especially at a sensitive time like this.

[23] Eugene Gu tweet, January 30, 2020: Masks are useful for infected people as a way to limit the spread of their respiratory droplets. Sneezing into your elbow, rather than into your ands, is also helpful for protecting others. But masks will do little for healthy people who are trying not to get sick in public.

[24] Eugene Gu tweet, January 31, 2020 - 8:45 AM: Masks are effective only for those who are already sick and want to protect others from their respiratory droplets when they cough or sneeze. Masks do very little to prevent healthy people from getting sick. Protecting others is a selfless act that should be free, not expensive.

[25] Eugene Gu tweet, February 5, 2020 - 9:01 AM: In the time that it took almost 500 people to die from the coronavirus since it first emerged, more than 1.1 million died from tobacco and more than 107,000 died from the flu. But 330 people did die from lightning strikes so the coronavirus is definitely more dangerous than lightening.

[26] Eugene Gu tweet, February 18, 2020 - 12:00 PM: Fear about the coronavirus has devastated the Chinese American community and its small businesses. We visited one bustling San Gabriel Valley neighborhood near Los Angeles and it's practically a ghost town now. It's happening all over America and around the world.

[27] Eugene Gu tweet, February 26, 2020: Using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer should be able to disinfect your hands from the coronavirus. Masks will not protect you from getting sick but if you are sick then wearing a mask will protect other people from your droplets. So will sneezing into your elbow not your hands.

[28] Eugene Gu tweet, February 26, 2020: Most people who get the coronavirus will experience mild disease and recover - especially young people. However those above age 50 or with pre-existing medical conditions like diabetes and heart disease have the greatest risk of experiencing severe diease needing hospitalization.

[29] Eugene Gu tweet, February 29, 2020 - 11:12 AM: Mike Pence is an idiot who isn't trustworthy, but what he said about masks is absolutely right. Most Americans do not need a mask and it won't protect you from getting sick. Masks are useful mainly for infected people to help prevent them from spreading the coronavirus to others.

[30] Eugene Gu tweet, February 29, 2020 - 12:04 PM: When it comes to the coronavirus, it's extremely important to approach this based on facts and evidence alone - not sensationalism and innuendo to get tons of clicks and views. that means listening to actual scientists and doctors, not media personalities out to make more money.

[31] Eugene Gu tweet, March 7, 2020 - 9:59 AM: Iran needs humanitarian aid given the huge coronavirus outbreak occurring there. The people of Iran are not our enemy. We must lift the crippling sanctions devastating Iran's healthcare system and supply aid immediately. Some things matter more than politics - like a pandemic.

[32] Eugene Gu tweet, March 10, 2020 - 3:01 PM: The coronavirus mysteriously leaves children virtually untouched while hurting the elderly. The virus uses the ACE2 receptor to invade our lung cells. I think there are differences in the pulmonary renin-angiotensin system between children and the elderly that can explain why.

[33] Eugene Gu tweet, March 11, 2020 - 10:45 AM: The World Health Organization declaring that the coronavirus is a pandemic means that we are beyond politics now. Trump needs to declare a national emergency and direct all resources to fighting this pandemic. We are all in this together, both Republicans and Democrats alike.

[34] Eugene Gu tweet; March 26, 2020 - 2:40 PM

[35] The Meme Policeman Facebook post; March 27, 2020

[36] Brendon Marotta; "People Will Die If The Medical Establishment Censors COVID-19 Discussion"; Brendon Marotta blog; March 27, 2020

[37] Brendon Marotta tweet March 22, 2020 - 4:47 PM

[38] Marotta did make a single, flippant tweet about the "weirdness" of the Coronavirus that gave no hint of danger.

[39] Brendon Marotta tweet March 27, 2020 - 10:29 PM: "Made an order March 17, 2020 for dust masks. I learned today that Amazon canceled it and deleted the item from their site due to supply issues. Didn't tell me they weren't coming. Wew. #Covid19 #coronavirus #coronavirus"

[41] Kevin Roose; "What is QAnon, the Viral Pro-Trump Conspiracy Theory?"; New York Times; August 20, 2020. "QAnon is the umbrella term for a sprawling set of internet conspiracy theories that allege, falsely, that the world is run by a cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophiles who are plotting against Mr. Trump while operating a global child sex-trafficking ring. QAnon followers believe that this clique includes top Democrats including Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and George Soros, as well as a number of entertainers and Hollywood celebrities like Oprah Winfrey, Tom Hanks, Ellen DeGeneres and religious figures including Pope Francis and the Dalai Lama. Many of them also believe that, in addition to molesting children, members of this group kill and eat their victims in order to extract a life-extending chemical from their blood."

[42] James Loewen, Facebook posts and comments (]; April 26, 2020 - May 2, 2020

[43] James Loewen, Facebook post and comment (]; May 20, 2020

[44] James Loewen, Facebook posts and comments (]; circa June 2020

[45] ibid; "Lauri Green Are you unaware that Anthony Weiner's laptop contained a file called "Life Insurance" and that the damning evidence there is of Hillary Clinton mutilating a girl? Do you know about this?" #FRAZZLEDRIP", [emphases in the original]

[46] Jane Coaston; "YouTube’s conspiracy theory crisis, explained"; Vox; updated December 14, 2018. "The conspiracy theory behind Frazzledrip is this, as 'explained' on the fake news website in April: Hillary Clinton and former Clinton aide Huma Abedin were filmed ripping off a child’s face and wearing it as a mask before drinking the child’s blood in a Satanic ritual sacrifice, and that video was then found on the hard drive of Abedin’s former husband, Anthony Weiner, under the code name 'Frazzledrip.'"

[47] Brendon Marotta; "#AAP16: American Academy of Pediatrics Attempts to Silence Human Rights Protestors"; American Circumcision website; October 31, 2016

[48] "That's how science works"; The Meme Policeman Facebook post; July 6, 2020

All times are based on the Pacific Time Zone.

We are unable to provide links to Brendon Marotta's tweets, as his Twitter account appears to have been deleted.


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