Robert Wallace Malone (born 1959) is an American virologist and immunologist. His work has focused on mRNA technology, of which he was a pioneer, pharmaceuticals, and drug repurposing research. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Malone has promoted misinformation about the safety and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines.
- 1 Education and career
- 1.1 Modern Covid vaccines are the result of a collective effort by various scientists.
- 1.2 Malone claims he was “written out of the history” of mRNA vaccines.
- 1.3 A believable voice in anti-vaccine circles
- 1.4 “Its nucking futs for people to get vaccinated” –Malone
- 1.5 “Americans are trapped in the mass formation psychosis” –Malone
- 1.6 Malone’s anti-vaccine propaganda continues to spread regardless of the social media ban.
Education and career
According to his license with the Maryland Board of Physicians, Malone received a medical degree from Northwestern University in 1991 and specializes in immunology.
As a then-chief medical officer for a Florida pharmaceutical company called Alchem Laboratories Corp, he was involved during the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic in research looking into Pepcid, the heartburn medicine, as a potential COVID-19 treatment.
Malone markets himself as the “inventor” of mRNA and DNA vaccines on his website and LinkedIn profile. His Twitter account, before it was suspended, said the same thing. There’s some merit to that claim, as several reporters and fact-checkers have documented.
Malone contributed to necessary early research. A pair of papers he co-authored with two other researchers in 1989 and six other researchers in 1990 showed that mRNA could be delivered into cells using lipids and that doing so with mice could trigger the production of new proteins. The two papers were the first reference in a 2019 history of the mRNA vaccine technology.
Modern Covid vaccines are the result of a collective effort by various scientists.
But the development of today’s COVID-19 vaccines was built on the work of many scientists and would not have been possible without other discoveries that cleared significant hurdles. For example, an early 2000s breakthrough from the University of Pennsylvania’s Drew Weissman and Katalin Karikó, for example, uncovered a way to keep the immune system from attacking injected mRNA.
“That problem had to be solved,” Offit said. “You can take the first step in the technology, but that doesn’t mean that you invented the technology. All those other steps had to occur.”
Malone claims he was “written out of the history” of mRNA vaccines.
Malone admitted to Logically in July that he did not invent the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines of today and instead claimed credit for creating the “vaccine technology platform.” But in an Atlantic profile published a month later, Malone lamented the plaudits awarded to Karikó, who is also a senior vice president at BioNTech, saying he was “written out of the history.
Slowly, Malone has written himself back in — but as someone who has made inaccurate claims that cast doubt about the very vaccines he insists would not exist without him.
“On the one hand, he argues, ‘I’m the inventor of this technology.’ On the other hand, he’s telling you that the technology is doing an enormous amount of harm,” Offit said.
A believable voice in anti-vaccine circles
Malone’s background has lent a level of credibility to his claims among anti-vaccine audiences. He speaks the language of science, cites studies and explains things clearly.
Malone has given interviews to Fox News host Tucker Carlson, InfoWars reporter Kristi Leigh, and former Trump adviser Steve Bannon. All of them have captured audiences while spreading misinformation about the vaccines.
When Malone appeared on Bannon’s podcast in August, Bannon described him as “the opposite of an anti-vaxxer,” according to the Atlantic.
Though a spokesperson for Twitter did not say which of Malone’s tweets violated the platform’s policies which led to his Twitter ban, archives of Malone’s page show it was littered with vaccine scepticism.
In June, he tweeted that a study showed that for every three lives the vaccines saved, they caused two deaths. But the journal that published the study later appended a note to it calling its main conclusion incorrect and then retracted it entirely.
The same month, PolitiFact rated False, a video featuring Malone that claimed the spike proteins generated after vaccination are toxic to cells. Other fact-checkers debunked his related claim in another video that the spike proteins often cause irreparable damage to children’s vital organs.
Malone has also suggested that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines might actually be making the coronavirus more dangerous and that the Pfizer vaccine was not fully approved.
And he said on Fox News host Sean Hannity’s radio show that the vaccines “created a whole huge bunch of super spreaders. So the truth is, it’s the unvaccinated that are at risk from the vaccinated.” That’s False.
“Its nucking futs for people to get vaccinated” –Malone
Malone landed him a platform Rogan, whose show was Spotify’s most popular podcast in 2021.
Talking to Rogan, Malone said it’s “nucking futs” for people with COVID-19 to get vaccinated. He cited the federal Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System. This unverified database cannot be used to assess causality and claims that it shows an “explosion of vaccine-associated deaths.” (It does not.)
He said hospitals are so financially incentivized to claim COVID-19 as the cause of patient deaths that a hypothetical patient “with a bullet hole to the head” would be ruled as a COVID-19 fatality if they tested positive. (This is wrong; if anything, research indicates that COVID-19 deaths have been undercounted.)
He said a state in India, Uttar Pradesh, “crushed COVID” using an early treatment package featuring ivermectin but resolved with the U.S. not to disclose that. (There’s no scientific basis for that assertion.) He said vaccine mandates are illegal. He said vaccinated people are more likely to be infected with the highly contagious omicron variant than unvaccinated people. (This is missing key context.) He wondered aloud whether the vaccine President Joe Biden took on live TV was “really a vaccine.” (There’s no evidence to back that.)
“Americans are trapped in the mass formation psychosis” –Malone
And in the comment that has generated the most attention online, Malone likened the U.S. to Nazi Germany and said Americans are trapped in a “mass formation psychosis,” in which “anybody who questions” the prevailing narrative is attacked.
“When you have a society that has become decoupled from each other and has free-floating anxiety, in a sense that things don’t make sense, we can’t understand it. And then their attention gets focused by a leader or series of events on one small point, just like hypnosis, they literally become hypnotized and can be led anywhere,” Malone said.
Speaking to Ingraham after the reports of YouTube’s actions against videos of those comments, Malone asserted that the social media penalties imposed against him “absolutely validated” that hypothesis.
Videos and video excerpts of Malone’s past comments have continued to circulate elsewhere, including on Facebook, where they were flagged as part of the platform’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.) They were also spreading on sites that have fewer regulations against misinformation, like Rumble.
“Those banned from mainstream social media can go elsewhere and still have huge stages to spread their messages,” said Ophir, the University of Buffalo, professor of communication.
Malone’s messages carry strong appeal for people who are scared about getting the vaccines.
“He offers you a reason not to get it,” Offit said. “It’s all wrong. But it’s what people want to hear.”