Fox & Goldline: Prospecting for Suckers

10/29/2013 12:31 pm ET | Updated Dec 29, 2013

Goldline, a ubiquitous advertiser on FOX News, who has frequently employed FOX News staff and other conservative media personalities as spokespersons, have returned to deceptive advertising practices designed to extricate old people from the money they've hidden in their coffee cans or doomsday bunkers and replace it with gold. Gold that isn't worth what it cost.

Let's rewind. In February 2012, the Santa Monica based company, sellers of precious metals, gold & gold coins, was charged with 19 criminal counts and agreed to a 4.5 million dollar settlement with the Santa Monica City attorney over criminal allegations of deceptive business practices. In November of 2012, Goldline was sued by a former employee for allegedly using deceptive tactics to scare the elderly into buying gold coins at a huge markup.

With 350 U.S. employees, Goldline was named one of Los Angeles' fastest growing businesses in 2010. That year, Goldline's revenue reached more than 700 million dollars. Since then, Goldine has risen to be one of America's top sellers of gold, thanks in large measure to their cozy relationships with the FOX News team, including Dennis Miller, Laura Ingraham, Mike Huckabee, and Sean Hannity, who in 2011 said: "I am looking forward to working closely with a gold company that has such a stellar reputation in the industry," adding "For those who are thinking about investing in gold, the place I highly recommend is Goldline." Glenn Beck, the former FOX News employee was also a Goldline spokesman.

OK. Back to the present. Over the course of two days (Oct 24 & 25, 2013) I watched five hours of FOX News, including the shows hosted by Brett Bair, Gretchen Carlson, Shep Smith, Bill Hemmer and Greta Van Susteren. When I wasn't screaming at the TV, or trying to sandblast off the disgust I was feeling, I wrote down what was being sold during each of the 150 commercials that ran in total during those programs. The most frequently aired commercial was one offering insurance sold by Humana that would cover those costs not covered by Medicare Part B. There were 16 of those commercials. Commercials for gold and silver coins were the second most frequent. There were 10 of those.

The third most frequent ad was one featuring Nathan Lane, Sean Hayes and Neil Patrick Harris for a water based lubri -- I'm kidding.

The ruggedly handsome actor William Devane stars in a series of Rosland Capital commercials and ominously warns viewers -- while he's chopping wood in the snow, or riding a horse in the snow -- of his fear of an impending currency crisis, which he blames on rising interest rates and Wall Street jitters. He doesn't mention that mortgage interest rates are at historic lows. Anyway -- to salve his fears, he announces that he buys gold as often as possible, then encourages you to buy gold (or silver) just like he does.

He has no tips for riding a horse or chopping wood in the snow.

Now, back to the deception. In a Goldline commercial the voice over announcer says that in 2000, the U.S. debt was 5.6 trillion dollars and that gold was selling for $279 an ounce. Then, the announcer says, that in 2010, the U.S. debt was 14 trillion and that gold was selling at $1420 an ounce. The inference being, more debt = higher cost of gold. The value of the gold is indicated on the screen by stacks of gold coins. The stack indicating the year 2000 is smaller than the stack representing the year 2010. Finally, the voice over says that the U.S. debt is projected to reach 20 trillion by 2016... and asks you to imagine what gold will be selling for then?


ONLY HERE'S THE THING: As you can see in the photo (taken from the actual commercial), the third stack of coins is much higher than the stacks representing 2000 and 2010... which means: gold will be worth MORE! And how can you be certain gold will be worth more? Look! The stacks of coins representing 2016 are higher.

This ad is misleading at best... lying at worst. And the Santa Monica city attorney might find it criminal. So, as Sean Hannity said: "I am looking forward to working closely with a gold company that has such a stellar reputation in the industry."

Great work, Sean. Great work, FOX.

Jon Hotchkiss is the creator of the new 6-hour science series, This vs That, whose goal is help people make more informed decisions that improve their health and save them emotional capital, time, money and even their lives. Remember: the 1st 10 minutes of every episode are FREE.

Correction: This post originally misidentified William Devane as being featured in a Goldline. Devane is featured in a commercial for Rosland Capital.