Goop queen Gwyneth Paltrow is throwing a fundraiser for wunderkind presidential candidate Mayor Pete Buttigieg—elevating pseudoscience into the political conversation.
Paltrow and her husband Brad Falchuk, along with actor Bradley Whitford and actress Amy Landecker, are set to throw the bash on May 9, with tickets starting at $250 per person, according to Variety.
Scientists and anti-pseudoscience activists ranted about Paltrow’s waltz into the 2020 race.
“Gwyneth Paltrow has built a successful brand by spreading health misinformation and embracing pseudoscience,” Timothy Caulfield, chair of health law and policy at the University of Alberta and author of Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong About Everything?, told The Daily Beast. “Facts obviously don’t mean much to her. The last thing we need is another politician who tolerates this kind of approach. We need leaders who will champion science, evidence, and critical thinking!”
This isn’t the first time Paltrow has dabbled in politics. In 2014, the Goop founder hosted a fundraiser for Barack Obama, where she fawned, “You’re so handsome that I can’t speak properly,” calling herself one of his “biggest fans, if not the biggest.”
Political pundits don’t see any harm in Paltrow flirting with Buttigieg’s rising star.
“People are shopping for a candidate… Mayor Pete is new, people want to hear from him, he’s a star,” Mathew Littman, a former Obama surrogate and Biden speechwriter, told The Daily Beast.
“I’ve never heard anybody express any interest in Goop,” he said. “I’ve never heard anybody talk about Goop… I don’t know why it would be negative. In this case, she is giving back… If I were a candidate, and Gwyneth Paltrow supported me, I would be thrilled. I’ve never heard anybody mention it.”
Caulfield, however, said that by accepting checks and backing from Paltrow, Buttigieg has propped Goop and its quacky wellness claims on a pedestal, lending them legitimacy.
“Given the amount of harmful nonsense that flows from Goop, I’m always disappointed to see her legitimized like this,” he said.
Massimo Pigliucci, a professor at the City University of New York who studies the philosophy of pseudoscience, said that we’re in for more instances of fake science clashing with politics.
“My best guess is that this has to do with the general degradation of political discourse itself, and particularly with the now mainstream status of concepts like ‘fake news’ and ‘alternative facts,’” he told The Daily Beast via email. “I’m not trying to paint too rosy a picture of politics in the past. It has always been a messy and not exactly rational business, but it does seem like the current crop of politicians—on both the left and the right—is getting more and more accustomed to the dangerous notion that expertise doesn’t matter, or that anyone can be an expert just by declaring it so.”
Pigliucci, who has studied the intersection of pseudoscience and politics for years, said that it’s a bipartisan effort, with both the Republicans’ questioning of climate change and the left’s courting of celebrities like Paltrow.
“It’s bad news, but it’s not really a new trend either,” he said. “It’s part of an increasingly disturbing culture of celebrities, where people who know nothing about science—from Jenny McCarthy to ‘Drs.’ Phil and Oz—regularly appear on television and influence public opinion, thereby causing real harm to people. I mean, measles, of all things, is on the upsurge again, and people like McCarthy and her celebrity sponsor, Oprah Winfrey, can squarely be co-blamed for it.”
Paltrow is more than just a famous influencer. Her company is worth at least $250 million and growing with a Netflix series and a list of exclusive products including facial potions, charcoal toothbrushes, “biofrequency” stickers, and other repeatedly debunked knick knacks. The actress also hosts a series of retreats where tickets start at $1,000.
Paltrow has attempted to address criticism by creating a medical review board for Goop, but a review of the names offered by the company to The Daily Beast shows that most of them specialize in traditional Chinese medicine and other alternative practices that are not recognized by most American medical boards and regulatory agencies.
Which brings us back to Buttigieg. Buttigieg’s campaign platforms have included soundly scientific topics: He’s talked about artificial intelligence in our future job world, and he’s convinced that portable health benefits are a way to counter the tangled mess of the American healthcare system. He’s also an ardent supporter of policies that will address climate change.
All this makes Buttigieg’s acceptance of Paltrow’s Goopy glitz puzzling and dangerous for science, especially since Paltrow admitted earlier this year that, “We didn’t understand that you can’t make certain claims” and that “if we’re going to write about ... a vaginal steam, that it’s funny.”
—With reporting by Julia Arciga in Washington, D.C.