ORLANDO, Fla. – At first, she thought it was a back-to-school checklist for her granddaughter. But as Julie Sussman began reading the list, she realized the brochure was actually an anti-vaccine campaign, delivered unsolicited straight to her mailbox.
“I was just like, ‘Oh, no. Not now. Not Central Florida,’” Sussman told News 6.
Sussman said the mailer was convincing at first, in part, because of its presentation. Glossy pages and colored print made the brochure almost look like a magazine.
“One of the things on here has ‘get school supplies,’” Sussman said, showing News 6 part of the checklist. “I thought maybe it was from the school,” since, after all, the word ‘schooling’ was printed where a sender’s name should be.
“It’s quite a nice, put-together brochure. I started reading and then I realized what it was.”
The brochure includes, among other things, anonymous testimonials from people who say they had bad reactions to the vaccine, criticisms of different incentives offered to people who get vaccinated, statements from rabbis advocating against the vaccine, and statements from doctors claiming they have concerns about the COVID-19 vaccine.
(News 6 is withholding the names of the doctors and rabbis cited in the report since we were unable to verify whether or not they supported the brochure or even knew of its existence.)
Julie thinks this all adds up to a campaign to push people from getting vaccinated. “It scared me,” Sussman said. “It scared me because people right now should be listening to the medical professionals, you know, not some random thing that comes in the mail.”
News 6 Investigators called both numbers on the back of the brochure, which took us to a pre-taped recording for a group called SOMECH. In the recording, the Jewish organization immediately acknowledged the existence of the brochure and denied publishing it.
“Please note, recently, it was brought to our attention that a brochure was sent out in our name, without our knowledge. It has no connection to us,” the recording says.
A SOMECH representative who later took our call also denied publishing the brochure.
A QR code on the pages took us to a downloadable version of the brochure. News 6 chose not to download the document since we could not verify the source of the info.
The ‘schooling’ senders address points to a dilapidated jewelry shop in Brooklyn that appears to be surrounded by business with Hebrew writing on the front. No one answered when News 6 called the jewelry shop’s phone number.
News 6 then checked out the website provided on the back of the brochure, which took us to the homepage for America’s Frontline Doctors-dot-org.
We discovered the founder, Dr. Simone Gold was charged with disorderly conduct for her participation in the Capitol riots earlier this year, according to federal documents.
News 6 reached out to both Gold and her group to see if they produced the brochure, but they have not yet responded.
News 6 also checked with the public information office at the Orange County School District. A spokesperson told us they “we’re not aware of a flyer being passed out to the community.”
While the vaccine debate continues in homes and social media platforms across America, Sussman stressed that for her it is not about whether someone is vaccinated. It’s about vetting information before sharing it.
“It is a personal decision. Whatever you choose to do, you choose to do. It’s just that having this show up in such a professional format, you know, we should be listening to our own doctors or pharmacists, or the people that we trust that take care of our health, not something that just shows up in the mail.
We reached out to MediaWise, a nonprofit, fact-checking group. They tell News 6 one of the first things you can do when you receive unsolicited info like this is to check the source of the information and verify first if they have an agenda.