Bill Maher (HBO)

Bill Maher gets cozy with the "goat milk cures HIV" quack: If “truth is dead and the internet killed it,” Maher is part of the problem

Charlie Sheen's dubious doctor gets a boost from the "Real Time" host, whose skepticism extends to modern medicine


Mary Elizabeth Williams
February 3, 2016 9:23PM (UTC)

"People are going to attack me just for having you on," Bill Maher told the guest. Okay, then, let's give the man what he wants.

On Friday, Maher welcomed to "Real Talk" Samir Chachoua. He's the controversial doctor who gained attention last month when Charlie Sheen revealed what happened when he'd gone to see him in Mexico to treat his HIV. Appearing via phone on Dr. Oz's show in January, Chachoua — who is not licensed to practice in the U.S. — called Sheen "the first adult in history to go HIV negative. The conventional medicine has never done that." He also revealed that to prove his confidence in his treatment, he'd injected himself with some of Sheen's blood. Oz — a man whose own track record of quackery is not to be sneezed at — was appalled, calling Chachoua's behavior "pretty inappropriate." Sheen's regular doctor, Robert Huizenga, meanwhile revealed that the actor's "inflammation levels went up a hundred fold over the last several weeks," and Sheen ended the show with a vow to return to his prescribed course of treatment.

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Sheen's manager confirmed to People last month that "Charlie is back on his meds. He tried a cure from a doctor in Mexico but the minute the numbers went up, he started taking his medicine. He said he would start on the plane on the way home and that is exactly what he did."

It seemed at the time arguably "pretty inappropriate" for Oz to even give this snake oil storyline any platform whatsoever. But to his credit, at least he framed it in to context of urging Sheen to go back to his conventional medicine, and vowing to support him though it. In welcoming Chachoua to his show, Maher, on the hand, had a somewhat different approach.

Speaking with Maher, Chachoua said that "quite frankly [Sheen] was dying" when he met him, claiming he had "severe liver failure from the medication and the alcohol, probably." And he said that Sheen showed improvement within "within a few hours" of his first treatment. "As soon as he started my treatment, he became more undetectable." Chachoua then went on to explain how he discovered what Maher called "his magic potion" — by researching a village where locals were drinking milk from goats infected with the Caprine Arthritis Encephalitis Virus (CAEV). And there, as he says, "This virus destroys HIV and protects people who drink it for life." Sounds legit!

As David Gorski puts it on Science Based Medicine puts it, "Yes, Chachoua’s 'preliminary evidence' is the claim that people from a small village in Mexico drink milk from arthritic goats (I kid you not)." Chachoua also claims that "after reporting profound and exciting results, researchers at Cedar Sinai Medical Center, UCLA and USC decided to remove my name from the discoveries and publish them as their own."

On "Real Time," Chachoua said that "the good thing about the Internet now is that a lot of researchers did follow on my work," and stated flat out that "nothing great in medicine has ever happened from an institute." If you say so!

It's not exactly surprising that Bill Maher would lap this sort of thing up. Last year, Mediate chronicled his lengthy history of vaccine skepticism, and in April, he welcomed Robert F. Kennedy Jr. to show for a conversation about vaccines, and said, "It astounds me that liberals, who are always suspicious of corporations… and defending minorities, somehow when it comes to this minority that’s hurt, it’s like, ‘You know what? Shut the f__k up and let me take every vaccine that Merck wants to shove down my throat.'"

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And as noted AIDS activist Peter Staley said this weekend on Facebook, Maher "has a history of AIDS denialism," including blurbing the late Christine Maggiore’s book "What If Everything You Thought You Knew about AIDS Was Wrong?" Maggiore gained attention through the nineties and into the 2000s for publicly disputing research connecting HIV and AIDS, and refusing conventional treatment. Both Maggiore and a three year old daughter have since died. Staley also says that "The $10 million case that 'Doctor' Sam Chachoua claims he won from L.A.'s Cedars-Sinai Medical Center was another lie he told to Bill Maher…. Cedars never paid him a dime."

It's pretty funny that just a few days ago, Maher delivered a rant in which he declared that "Truth is dead and the Internet killed it," explaining that "Somewhere along the line, the Information Superhighway became Bulls__t Boulevard, and truth was roadkill. Of course the world has always had a lot of gullible people who will buy anything…" He went on to say that "Americans used to get their news from actual news organizations. Now they get it from chain emails and chatrooms and Facebook posts written by lunatics and sadists. The street corner nut with a sandwich board used to be laughed at; now he's linked at. Lies are the new truth."

On Chachoua's site, meanwhile, he promises, "Nothing is incurable… A vaccine exists as does an effective therapy against cancer and other diseases with almost no side effects."

Watch to learn more about Dr. Chachoua:
[jwplayer file="http://media.salon.com/2016/02/SamnChachoua.Asha_.02032016.mp4" image="http://media.salon.com/2016/02/Screen-Shot-2016-02-03-at-3.24.22-PM.png"][/jwplayer]

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Mary Elizabeth Williams

Mary Elizabeth Williams is a staff writer for Salon and the author of "A Series of Catastrophes & Miracles."

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Bill Maher Charlie Sheen Dr. Oz Hiv Samir Chachoua




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