The founder of the world's second-largest Christian TV network, which has persistently spread anti-vaccine conspiracy theories, died Tuesday after contracting COVID.
Daystar Television, which reaches over 100 million American households and more than two billion people around the world, on Wednesday announced that founder Marcus Lamb had died at 64. Lamb had spent months railing against the COVID vaccine and his network hosted hours of interviews with anti-vaxxers. His network has frequently featured anti-vaccine guests like Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Del Bigtree and Simone Gold, the founder of American Frontline Doctors, which promotes and profits from bogus COVID treatments. Lamb's network previously promoted Donald Trump's campaign and his election lies, and Lamb himself was a member of Trump's faith advisory board.
"It's with a heavy heart we announce that Marcus Lamb, president and founder of Daystar Television Network, went home to be with the Lord this morning," the network said on Twitter. "The family asks that their privacy be respected as they grieve this difficult loss. Please continue to lift them up in prayer."
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The network did not mention Lamb's battle with COVID but his son Jonathan discussed his illness earlier this month, calling it a "spiritual attack from the enemy."
"As much as my parents have gone on here to kind of inform everyone about everything going on to the pandemic and some of the ways to treat COVID — there's no doubt that the enemy is not happy about that," he told Daystar, according to Relevant Magazine. "And he's doing everything he can to take down my dad."
Lamb's wife, Joni, said on the network Tuesday that her husband, who also had diabetes, "got the COVID pneumonia." She said the treatments promoted on Daystar failed to save her husband.
"We were trying to treat the COVID and pneumonia with the different protocols we use, including the ones we talk about on Daystar. We used those — I myself used them and had breezed through COVID," she said. "It caused his blood sugar to spike and a decrease in his oxygen. He 100% believed in everything that we've talked about here on Daystar. ... We still stand by that, obviously."
The Lambs have repeatedly touted ivermectin, which the Food and Drug Administration warns is not a "safe or effective" COVID treatment, and hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malarial drug embraced by Trump that has repeatedly been shown to be ineffective against the coronavirus and potentially dangerous to users. Joni Lamb and others at the network have railed against not just COVID vaccines but also flu and HPV immunizations. The network recently filed a lawsuit over the Biden administration's vaccine mandate, calling it a "sin against God's Holy Word" and arguing that making employees get immunized would "potentially cause them to sin." The network's website calls vaccines "the most dangerous thing your child could face."
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The Lambs are among a large number of televangelists who have spread misinformation about COVID. White evangelicals are the least likely religious group in the U.S. to be vaccinated, according to a September Pew study, with only 57% receiving at least one dose of a COVID vaccine.
Numerous conservative broadcasters who have spread misinformation about COVID or vaccines have died after contracting the virus in recent months, including Denver pastor Bob Enyart, Christian radio broadcaster Jimmy DeYoung and Florida radio hosts Marc Bernier and Dick Farrel.
Lamb had also come under scrutiny over his business dealings. An NPR investigation in 2014 found that Daystar gave away just a fraction of the $35 million a year it received from viewer donations. One employee told the outlet that although the IRS considers the Christian network a tax-exempt "church," it functions more like a "business making money."
Lamb last year returned $3.9 million in taxpayer funds from the Payroll Protection Program, which was intended to help small businesses survive and pay workers during the pandemic, after Inside Edition found that the network bought a multimillion-dollar private jet just two weeks after receiving the funds. Lamb denied that he used the government funds to buy the jet.
"They got millions of dollars from the government," Pete Evans, an investigator at the church watchdog group Trinity Foundation, told the outlet, "and then they spent millions of dollars on a private jet."
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