Kirk Moore and Teena Horlacher issue a statement in Utah
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A Plastic Surgeon Accused of Vaccine Fraud Has Become a Hero to Republicans and Anti-Vaxxers

A doctor in the "health freedom" movement pushed an anti-vax law and, prosecutors say, sold fake vaccine cards. Supporters compare him to Oskar Schindler and say this is just the beginning of what the movement can do.

“I don’t think there’s any doubt that we’re hurting people,” said Dr. Kirk Moore, a Utah plastic surgeon, in a recent interview with ex-Fox reporter Ivory Hecker. He was talking about the administration of mRNA vaccines, to which he objects so strongly that it landed him under federal indictment.  

It’s been two months since Moore and three other people were indicted over what prosecutors say was a fraudulent scheme to hand out falsified vaccine cards in exchange for patients making a donation to an unnamed “health freedom organization.” The specific charges against Moore are quite lurid: He’s accused not just of providing fake vaccination cards to patients, but of squirting vaccine doses down the drain and, in the case of children, giving them saline shots instead of a vaccination, presumably so they wouldn’t know they hadn’t been vaccinated and couldn’t tell others. 


In all, prosecutors say, Moore—whose practice was a certified vaccine provider that signed an agreement with the Centers for Disease Control requiring it to administer vaccine—gave patients cards asserting that they had in all received at least 1,937 doses of vaccine, when they had in fact received none.  His co-defendants are his office manager, his receptionist, and his neighbor, a woman named Kristin Jackson Andersen, who the feds say accepted the donations and who has posted fulsomely about anti-vaccine causes for years. All of the defendants have pleaded not guilty. 

While under indictment, Moore has been doing the rounds of conservative and conspiratorial media outlets, which have declared that his case represents a challenge to vaccines and mandates, and an important test for what they call medical freedom. 

On a podcast called Conservative Daily, he compared himself to someone following Good Samaritan laws. On Sons of Liberty Radio, he compared his critics and persecutors to the foot soldiers of Chairman Mao. In turn, media outlets interviewing and covering Moore have hailed him as a hero who saved hundreds of lives, using the most inflammatory metaphors possible.  


Dr. Kirk Moore discusses his case with Conservative Daily

“Dr. Moore,” reads one article, to which a site run by Moore’s supporters prominently links, “was trying to liberate the medical profession from government tyranny and CDC-inflicted genocide by vaccine, much like Oskar Schindler tried to liberate Jews from Hitler’s wrath and the gas chambers of the concentration camps.” 


While Moore denies his guilt, he has admitted that he did precisely what prosecutors say he did—provide treatments and falsified vaccine cards to patients in exchange for donations to a health freedom group. He says he didn’t benefit from doing this, though the government says that in some cases, the clinic took “direct cash payments” in exchange for phony cards. As the government has it, all of this amounted to a conspiracy to defraud the United States; as a legal fundraiser set up for Moore and his co-defendants on the Christian fundraising site GiveSendGo has it, “this case is unprecedented and not only threatens many individual Constitutional rights, but also fundamental God-given individual rights and freedoms of families, parents, children, employees, business owners and Americans in all walks of life!”  

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His supporters are correct that this case transcends its particulars. Moore is an enthusiastic advocate of the use of discredited COVID treatments such as ivermectin, at a time when quack doctors who have promoted such so-called “early treatments” are increasingly touting them as all-purpose cure-alls for illnesses like the flu. He’s also a member of a Utah medical freedom community that has gone from victory to victory, and worked for state legislation covering so-called “genetic procedures” that was signed into law last year and which anti-vaccine activists describe as a model for the rest of the country. With the help of elected officials and the leadership of the state’s Republican Party, the community of which Moore is part seems aimed at getting the government out of the business of overseeing medical practice entirely—except, of course, for practice it wants the state to bar.


Citing legal advice, Moore declined to speak to a Motherboard reporter and to respond to a detailed request for comment, but did refer us to two people who could speak on his behalf. They shed light on one of the most striking things about Moore’s case: the advocacy and fundraising apparatus springing to life around him. 

One of the spokespeople is Trevor FitzGibbon, formerly a major player in progressive public relations, whose firm shut down in 2015 in the wake of sexual harassment and assault allegations against him. FitzGibbon has more recently remade himself as a flack for anti-vaccine causes, like a January 2022 rally in Washington D.C. After a somewhat contentious phone call with a Motherboard reporter, FitzGibbon did not offer a statement on the record; he also did not respond to a followup email seeking clarification on his role in Moore’s PR campaign.

Moore’s other spokesperson is Teena Horlacher, who proved more voluble. A right-wing activist and member of the Utah Republican Party’s governing body, Horlacher describes herself as “involved in political efforts against vaccine mandates” and recalled first meeting Moore through a doctor she’d invited to prescribe ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine at a conference she was staging, which was headlined by QAnon impresario/former Donald Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn.


“The government should not be mandating to any physician how to treat their patients,” she told Motherboard in a text message. “People have the right to seek what medical treatment they deem is appropriate for them and their families.” 

Horlacher, who made clear that she doesn’t believe this freedom should extend to patients seeking abortion or gender-affirming care, doesn’t think it’s mysterious that Moore would be celebrated as a hero—and, as she did repeatedly over the course of two conversations with Motherboard, implied that he had in fact done what prosecutors accuse him of.

“Vaccine injury from the Covid shot is a very real thing,” she wrote. “Many people are injured and many have died. Perhaps Dr. Moore saved some from similar side effects.”

The issue for Moore’s supporters, it appears, is less what he did or didn’t do, but that the government is involved at all. They’ve cast the doctor, his co-defendants, and seekers of ivermectin prescriptions and fraudulent vaccine cards as victims of an unjust medical establishment. And all of this fits neatly into a larger legislative agenda, which is apparently succeeding, and seems likely to continue to do so. 

Moore’s neighbor, Andersen—who did not respond to a request for comment from Motherboard—is described in the indictment as having sought, in exchange for phony vaccination cards, donations for “Organization 1, a private organization seeking to ‘liberate’ the medical profession from government and industry conflicts of interest.”


This language closely matches that used by the Health Independence Alliance, or HIA, to describe its mission. Based in Sandy, Utah, which is just a few miles down the road from Moore’s office, the HIA has claimed to be an “independent medical body” with an anonymous membership of medical professionals including registered nurses, a cardiologist, a virologist, a naturopath, and a homeopath. Its website asserts that “a healthy system of medicine is that which is independent of the conflicts of interests that arise from the involvement of both industry and the government.” 

The HIA adds that one of its two primary aims is to “Liberate the medical profession from these conflicts of interest by a ‘separation of powers’ between medicine, law, and industry.” More specifically, the HIA seeks to get government out of the business of regulating medicine and licensing doctors entirely.


Dr. Kirk Moore discusses his case with InfoWars

(A spokesperson for the Utah U.S. Attorney’s office said it could not comment and sent a link to Pacer, the website used to look up federal court records, when asked by Motherboard about the close similarities in language between the indictment’s description of Organization 1 and the HIA’s description of itself on its website. In response to a detailed request for comment, the HIA sent a statement reading, “We have no comment at this time and, pursuant to U.C.A. 76-9-201(2)(a)(ii), request that you cease contacting us concerning the subject matter of your email or anything related to it.” The law they cited is the part of the Utah criminal code that deals with “electronic communication harassment.”)


The HIA’s website contains no information on who exactly belongs to or works for the group, though it does feature a link to a trailer for a low-budget documentary it’s produced called Utah: Safe & Effective? An Apolitical Documentary. The trailer, hosted by the podcaster Robert Scott Bell, who covers conspiracies and medical freedom topics, features people claiming to have been injured by vaccines. 

The most substantive public link between the HIA and any identifiable person appears to consist of a woman named Irene Ricks accepting an award on the group’s behalf at the 2022 United States Health Freedom Congress, a yearly nationwide gathering for members of the medical freedom movement. 

A speaker representing the Congress read a citation applauding HIA for “their work envisioning and implementing the successful passage of Utah’s SB 144 prohibiting genetic procedures. With the advent of mRNA vaccines and the discrimination at the workplace that followed it across the United States, HIA envisioned that there should be a way of safeguarding medical privacy using the language of genetics. On those lines, Utah worked to pass a bill that prohibited the use of mRNA vaccines as a condition for employment through the path of prohibiting genetic procedures.” 

Ricks, who did not respond to requests for comment, is a former nurse who has said she was injured by a COVID vaccine and blamed her unvaccinated husband’s death from the disease on the medical establishment. In a short speech—which, she said, the co-founder of the HIA, whom she did not name, helped her write—she thanked the Congress for “recognizing the potential of this type of legislation” and urged members to help develop “a parallel health system.”


The legislation in question, SB 144, amends Utah’s Genetic Testing Privacy Act to bar employers from requiring workers to prove they’ve had a so-called “genetic procedure,” in essence barring any mandate that they receive mRNA vaccines. It went largely unnoticed—the bill’s floor sponsor, State Senator Steve Eliason, told Motherboard it had never passed, although it did, and was signed into law by Utah’s governor in March 2022—but occasioned celebration among anti-vaccine and medical freedom activists. The website TrialSiteNews, for example, approvingly noted that “SB144 sets up a template that can be replicated to suit the needs of individual states.” (“Anyone who opposes such a law,” it wrote, “is guilty of allowing humans to be made into GMO’s.”)

The bill’s sponsor, State Senator Michael Kennedy—who represents Sandy, among other areas—didn’t respond to requests for comment on whether HIA was involved in its writing and passage; its drafting attorney referred questions to Kennedy. Eliason said he’d never heard of the HIA.

Ricks and the HIA, though, aren’t the only parties who assert that the organization was involved in the bill’s passage. So does Moore’s spokesperson, Horlacher—who also credits Moore.


“HIA and Kirk were working against vaccine mandates during the legislative session of 2022,” Horlacher wrote in a text message. “When a patient suggested that patients would like to donate to the cause, Moore decided to send them to HIA.”

Horlacher, who describes Moore as an acquaintance she’s helping on a volunteer basis, said the two came together due to their shared beliefs. In October 2021, Horlacher staged the WeCANact conference in Utah, at which she brought in right-wing and antivax luminaries such as Michael Flynn, Simone Gold, and Peter McCullough to speak and give information about such topics as COVID, election fraud, and sex trafficking. (Operation Underground Railroad founder Tim Ballard, a local, was at one point advertised, but didn’t ultimately speak.)

At this event, Horlacher set up booths, she told Motherboard in our first conversation, because she was concerned that people were struggling to get treatment both for COVID and for vaccine injuries. (Horlacher has 10 children, nine of whom are unvaccinated and one of whom she says was injured by a vaccine.) She staffed these booths, she said, with friendly doctors she knew would prescribe ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine. One of those doctors introduced her to Moore—in a subsequent conversation, Horlacher told Motherboard that she had in fact known Moore before the WeCANact conference, and had met him at “some other event”—which was helpful because, she said, people were coming to her because they were being forced to get the COVID vaccine.

“I was helping people find people who would help them,” she said, before quickly adding that Moore is innocent of the charges against him. 


Dr. Kirk Moore discusses his case with Dr. Margaret Aranda of The Rebel Patient

After that conference, Moore stayed active in the medical freedom community; in June 2022, he was a signatory on an open letter which condemned, "in the strongest terms," the fact that various COVID quacks were facing consequences from their certification boards for spreading medical misinformation. At this time, according to prosecutors, Moore and his co-defendants were carrying out their fraudulent scheme, which went on until at least September. In January, they were indicted.

Moore’s media strategy is, to say the least, curious. To go by the many interviews he’s given, the wide array of coverage highlighted on a Telegram group run by his supporters, and the sites run by those supporters, it seems to rely on Moore being given and accepting accolades for doing something to which he’s pleaded not guilty. To go by the tens of thousands of dollars already raised for his defense, though, the strategy seems to have so far been effective, if strangely innocent of the possibility that prosecutors might see any of his many interviews.

But the larger point here is clearly an ideological one: To suggest that obtaining COVID vaccine from the government and then destroying it is heroic; that providing proof of vaccination to the unvaccinated is an act of conscience comparable to having sheltered European Jews hiding from their Nazi persecutors; and to paint the situation in which Moore and his co-defendants find themselves as the result of brave civil disobedience. In turn, it seems obvious, the publicity around Moore’s case is intended to shed light on broad anti-vaccine causes and proposed legislation—and to signal to other doctors that they can be a very particular kind of hero figure, to a very specific audience, too. 

When Motherboard asked Horlacher why Moore seems to have been coyly admitting that he did what he is accused of, she wrote, for a second time, “The government should not be mandating to any physician how to treat their patients. People have the right to seek what medical treatment they deem is appropriate for them and their families.” 

So far, this approach is working. The story of the doctor who not only refused to comply with vaccine mandates but took it upon himself not just to learn the lessons of Nuremberg but to act upon them is spreading steadily. Whether it will serve any larger goals—more legislation, deregulating the practice of medicine in particular ways, or even advancing the nebulous cause of medical freedom itself—very much remains to be seen. But there is another story here, about the doctor who engaged in a criminal conspiracy to obtain COVID vaccine from the government, destroy it, and provide falsified documents to patients. At some point soon, prosecutors will tell it to a jury.