WATCH: John Oliver exposes Herbalife, multilevel marketing schemes

The "Last Week Tonight" host goes beyond the "trappings of legitimacy" and false claims from celebrity endorsers

Published November 7, 2016 1:28PM (EST)

"Last Week Tonight" host John Oliver on Sunday shined a spotlight on the predatory infrastructure of multilevel marketing (MLM) schemes like nutrition supplement company Herbalife.

In 1985, facing criticism for overstating the product's health benefits, Herbalife founder Mark Hughes was summoned before a Senate subcommittee to answer to health experts — about whom he later asked, "If they're so expert in weight loss, why were they so fat ... ?"

And as ABC News discovered in its 2014 investigation into the company, independent distributors still overinflate Herbalife's health benefits. Undercover cameras at a training session in New York caught one distributor claiming Herbalife allowed her to become pregnant for the first time at age 40.

"Well, that is obviously bullshit," Oliver responded. "Nutritional shakes cannot help you get pregnant. There are only 3 liquids that can do that: a glass of merlot, the honey-smooth music of Sade, and good old fashioned jizz."

"From the outside, these companies do have the trappings of legitimacy," he noted. "Many have high-profile celebrity endorsers."

The range of celebrities touting the unverified benefits of Herbalife spans from Cristiano Ronaldo to former secretary of state Madeleine Albright, who consented being labelled "a product of the product" by CEO Michael O. Johnson.

"So forget studying at Columbia and Johns Hopkins," Oliver said. "If you want to be like the first female secretary of state, just chug a couple of vanilla-adjacent nutri-shakes a day and thank her in the morning."


By Brendan Gauthier

Brendan Gauthier is a freelance writer.

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Herbalife John Oliver Last Week Tonight Madeleine Albright Multilevel Marketing Pyramid Scheme