Michelle Van Etten, billed by Republican National Convention organizers as a small business success story, hawks “pseudoscience” nutrition supplements for a company with a “pyramid scheme” type marketing strategy, according to reporting from the Daily Beast.
Van Etten, who is scheduled to speak on Wednesday night, is described on the RNC’s site as running “an international multi-million dollar network marketing business” that boasts 100,000 customers and distributors.
The RNC schedule doesn’t name Van Ettern’s business, but she is an independent contract employee with Youngevity, a company that sells thousands of products that claim to boost overall health and wellbeing. The company also makes far more dubious claims, like that its products combat cancer, rebuild bone mass and help with weight loss.
On Youngevity’s website, Van Etten is listed as a “senior vice chairman marketing director,” a position also promoted on her Facebook page.
Janet Helm, a registered dietician, told the Daily Beast, “The whole basis of the products and the claims are pseudoscience” and said the overly broad medical claims are “potentially dangerous.”
The Republican nominee himself once dabbled in the vitamin business, retailing customized supplements and test kits that experts say were grounded in bad science.
The company runs on a multi-level marketing scheme that offers recruits everything from extra cash to diamond watches and luxury vacations for their sales and the number of new salespeople they bring into the fold.
“The company certainly appears to be a pyramid scheme,” Britt Hermes, an ex-homeopathic doctor who runs a blog debunking naturopathic claims, told the site. “It seems like a world-class scam.”
The products have found a dedicated fan in Alex Jones, the notorious conspiracy theorist best known for his red-faced rants.
In an online video endorsing Youngevity’s supplement regime, Jones says he lost nearly 40 pounds, his testosterone levels are elevated and he’s more “crazed” after he started taking “Tangy Tangerine.”
In a follow-up interview, Van Etten distanced herself from her association with the company. She said while she personally takes the supplements, she said she doesn’t push “claims” on customers.
“I am really anti-claim,” she said.
Van Etten wrote on Facebook that she is scheduled to speak at 8:49 p.m. Wednesday.