Alex Berenson, the former New York Times reporter turned “the pandemic’s wrongest man,” as the Atlantic once dubbed him, was permanently suspended from Twitter on Sunday for violating the social media company’s policies against coronavirus misinformation. True to form, Berenson briefly snuck back on Twitter using the handle of the controversial autism charity Generation Rescue before that account, too, was suspended. Now, Berenson is implying he will sue Twitter, for something or other, with the help of “very wealthy people” he says wish to come to his aid.
Berenson has become infamous during the pandemic for energetically spreading bad information about COVID, masks, and vaccines, and for being exceptionally touchy when media organizations ask him follow-up questions about his work. On Sunday, after an exceptionally long and unfettered run of doing that, Twitter told Ben Collins of NBC that Berenson’s account “has been permanently suspended for repeated violations of our COVID-19 misinformation rules.” Twitter subsequently also confirmed that statement with Motherboard.
According to a post on Berenson’s substack, his last tweet was a link to a pre-print of a large Israeli study claiming that natural immunity is better than that conferred by vaccines. As a pre-print, the paper has not been peer-reviewed. And as people who know what they’re talking about immediately pointed out, putting yourself at risk of severe illness, death and/or long COVID rather than taking a vaccine that has been shown to be extremely good at preventing bad outcomes isn’t very good risk-reward analysis.
Berenson then responded to his ban by trying to evade it, returning to Twitter by using the account of controversial autism organization Generation Rescue. (Just to make sure there was no confusion, he also wrote a Substack post that read “Hello Twitter! You may now know me as JB Handley” and showed a screenshot of the Generation Rescue Twitter account, followed by the words “New avatar coming soon.”)
Generation Rescue was founded in 2005 by businessman JB Handley and his wife Lisa, who have claimed their children became autistic after being vaccinated. Its most recognizable face and spokesperson was actress and anti-vaccine personality Jenny McCarthy, who made the same claim about her own son. Generation Rescue promoted debunked, discredited and often risky treatments for autistic kids, including several that its own board members stood to profit from. It abruptly shuttered in 2019 after a brief and strange attempt to rebrand as a “functional medicine” organization. Neither Handley, McCarthy, nor Generation Rescue’s last nominal executive director, a twenty-something aspiring podcaster named Zack Peter, appear to have ever commented on the organization’s closure. Handley tweeted on Monday that he’d signed up for Berenson’s Substack, making it seem at least somewhat likely he turned the keys over to the Twitter account; Handley does not take requests for comment from the press, writing, “I no longer do press interviews, I said all I wanted to say in my two books.” He currently works with Children’s Health Defense, Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s anti-vaccine organization.
In his brief time apparently taking over the Generation Rescue account, Berenson changed the accounts Twitter bio to “Definitely not Alex Berenson,” with a link to his substack, and tweeted bon mots like “Censorship is dumb.” That account, too, has now been suspended.
In a post Monday on his Substack, Berenson wrote that he was considering his “legal options,” but seemed unclear on what precisely he would sue Twitter for, writing, “A potential suit is complex and would cover - at a minimum - First Amendment issues, contract law, and drug/vaccine law.” He added, “A lawsuit may be expensive, and I appreciate your offers of donations. Several very wealthy people have offered to help as well, and my strong preference is to rely on them if possible; I don’t think people with mortgages to pay should be subsidizing this fight, unless there is no choice.”
In an email, Berenson told Motherboard, “Twitter’s attempt to censor me is already failing - more people signed up for my Substack newsletter yesterday than any other day in its history. I continue to consider my legal options against Twitter.”