A Response to Tim Bolen

Stephen Barrett, M.D.

When false ideas are attacked, their promoters often spread lies about the critics. That's happened to me and several others who justifiably criticized Hulda Clark, PhD, ND, an unlicensed naturopath who claimed she could cure cancer, AIDS, and many other serious diseases, sometimes within a few hours [1]. Clark died of complications of multiple myeloma (a form of cancer) in September 2009. Over the years, her network included:

Since 1999, "Tim Bolen" (real name Patrick Timothy Bolen)—who said Hulda Clark hired him as her "publicist"—has distributed false, misleading, and defamatory messages about antiquackery activists through the Internet. Many of these messages have been redistributed by others who welcome what they perceive as convenient opportunities to attack our reputations.

Bolen uses the term "Quackbuster" or "Quackpot" to describe people he thinks are "persecuting" Clark and other "alternative" practitioners. He claims that "Barrett, and his bludgeon squad, have for years assaulted America's finest health leaders—those that spurn the heavy use of dangerous drugs in favor of more natural remedies." [3] Bolen says he is investigating us and periodically claims that he has assembled lots of useful information. However, he seems to have very little understanding of our activities; and some of his messages have accused people of participating in activities they knew nothing about. This article describes his libel campaign and my response to it.

Who Is "Tim" Bolen?

"Tim Bolen," whose real name is Patrick Timothy Bolen, has represented himself as Hulda Clark's "publicist." During the early years of his libel campaign, Bolen and his wife Jan did business as JuriMed, an entity whose stated purpose was to assist "alternative" health practitioners faced with regulatory action, criminal prosecution, or other matters that threaten their financial well-being and/or license to practice. Bolen referred to JuriMed as a "public relations and research group" and to his work as "crisis management." JuriMed's Web site listed no physical address, and I could find no indication of fictitious name registration with the State of California. Bolen sometimes gives his address as 31103 Rancho Viejo #2131, San Juan Capistrano, California, which is a storefront where people rent boxes to receive mail. As far as I can tell, JuriMed never had a telephone directory listing or published street address, although its telephone number was posted on several Web sites. During a deposition in 2006, Bolen stated that he lived and operated JuriMed from a house he leased in the Cleveland National Forest and that he had moved there seven or eight years previously after losing his home in a foreclosure sale [4]. Business use of a National Forest home site is illegal.

Bolen, who was born in 1943, apparently has not been diligent about paying his debts. Certified records from the Orange County Clerk-Recorder's Office indicate that between 1991 and 2000, the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, the California State Franchise Board, and the County of Orange placed a total of seven tax liens against him, one against him and his wife jointly, and two against the Bolen Publishing Company. The amounts totaled more about $43,500, of which at least $25,000 was still owed in May 2001. The records also showed that a residence owned by the Bolens underwent a Trustee's sale in 1994 and that, in 1996, a contractor recorded a mechanic's lien against Tim for $22,898.52 for unpaid charges related to flood damage to another residence. At his 2006 deposition, when asked whether he had filed any federal tax returns during the five previous years, he said he had. But when asked what year(s) he did so, he became evasive. He also said that he had been charging his living expenses to his business [4]. In August 2007, I rechecked the Orange County database and found (a) an $88,480 federal lien against Tim and Jan Bolen which included an amount for each year from 1994 through 2003, (b) California state tax liens totaling $11,495 for 1999, 2000, 2001, 2003, and 2004 for Tim and (c) a $1,912 California lien for 1999, 2000, 2001, and 2003 for Jan Bolen.

In September 1999, Hulda Clark was arrested in San Diego, California, based on a fugitive warrant from Indiana, where she faced charges of practicing medicine without a license. The case originated in 1993 when Clark lived and practiced in Indiana. Shortly after Clark's apprehension, her son Geoffrey hired Tim Bolen and/or JuriMed to assist her. Bolen then began distributed messages supporting Clark's work and attacking her "enemies." His principal target was me.

Geoffrey Clark also set up a defense fund to pay for expenses associated with defending Hulda against "legal attacks." A description of the fund stated that the covered expenses would include attorney fees, publicists, expert witnesses, court costs, and appeals. The report also stated that by May 31, 2000, the fund had raised $113,943.76, earned interest of $665.96, and spent $27,900.51 for legal expense, $327.65 for "Acct/Copies," $56,408.43 for public relations, and $714.30 for Hulda Clark's travel. It did not indicate how much of the public relations payment went to the Bolens. Within a day after Quackwatch displayed this information, it was removed from the New Century Press Web site.

In April 2000, an Indiana judge dismissed the charges against Clark on grounds that too much time had elapsed between the filing of the charges and her arrest. The judge's verdict did not address the merits of the charges but only the issue of whether the delay had compromised Clark's ability to mount a defense and her right to a speedy trial.

In February 2001, Mexican authorities inspected Century Nutrition and ordered it to shut down. According to a report in the San Diego Union Tribune, the clinic had never registered and was operating without a license [5]. Bolen reacted to the closing with a news release stating:

Clark, and her team have, since September of 1999, had to fight off in one legal battle after another—the most EVIL onslaught ever foisted on Americans—in my mind; a blatant outright attempt to stop a cure for cancer, and other diseases from becoming mainstream. . . .

One of the ideas we have already decided to implement is a new Dr. Clark website detailing . . . the intensive legal defense we are having to mount. We'll show you the malicious tactics the opposition is using to tie up Clark's research funds in legal defense. And we'll show you why we need to conduct an intensive offense against the cult which is attempting to silence her [6].

In June 2001, the Mexican authorities announced that the clinic would be permitted to reopen but can offer only conventional care. The clinic was also fined 160,000 pesos (about $18,000). Both the order and the fine were appealed through the Mexican courts [7]. Clark's lawyer informed me that the fine was rescinded. However, I am unable to locate any documents to this effect and, he refused my request to provide them.

Bolen was also involved in the defense of Douglas J. Phillips, D.D.S., of West Palm Beach, Florida, a "biological" dentist who faced disciplinary proceedings that began in 1999. In August 2001, an administrative law judge recommended that Phillips be fined $9,000 and suspended from practicing for 1 year, followed by 5 years of probation. In making his recommendations, the judge upheld charges that Phillips (a) had furnished substandard care to a patient (a chiropractor); (b) had failed to keep adequate dental records for that patient; and (c) had failed to maintain the required malpractice insurance coverage. In November 2001, the Florida Board of Dentistry went much further and ordered that Phillips's license be revoked and that he be assessed $151,181.24 for administrative costs [8]. Phillips appealed through the court system and obtained a temporary stay, but his appeal was not successful. The case is significant because the substandard practice included Autonomic Response Testing (ART), a variation of applied kinesiology, a pseudoscientific method in which muscle tests are used to diagnose health problems throughout the patient's body. Bolen, who appeared to have been hired by Phillips or his attorney, labeled the proceedings against Phillips a "quackbuster conspiracy." On February 2, 2001, Bolen distributed a message stating that "decisions on whom to prosecute, and for what, by the Florida Dental Board, are being made by quackbuster king-pin . . . Stephen Barrett, in his basement in Allentown, PA." This was news to me, because I first heard about the Phillips case in a message Bolen had distributed two weeks previously. Before that time, I had known nothing about either Phillips or what the Florida board was doing.

Bolen was also involved in the defense of Eleazar M. Kadile, M.D., a chelation therapist in Wisconsin who was charged with false advertising; failure to give adequate informed consent; failure to keep adequate medical records; obtaining payment by fraud and deceit; and falsely representing that patients were suffering from toxic conditions [9]. The case was settled with a consent agreement that requires Kadile to (a) implement a mandatory disclosure procedure for patients contemplating chelation therapy; (b) undergo an evaluation to determine his fitness to continue practicing medicine, (c) fulfill certain educational requirements; (d) have his practice monitored for at least two years by an independent expert approved by the Board; and (e) pay $15,000 for costs related to the disciplinary process.

The Libel Campaign

In November 1999, Bolen began distributing false and defamatory statements to the effect that I am arrogant, bizarre, closed-minded, emotionally disturbed, professionally incompetent, intellectually dishonest, a dishonest journalist, sleazy, unethical, a quack, a thug, a bully, a Nazi, a hired gun for vested interests, the leader of a subversive organization, and engaged in criminal activity (conspiracy, extortion, filing a false police report, and other unspecified acts). Bolen also began claiming that Terry Polevoy, MD (a Canadian pediatrician who operates anti-quackery Web sites) is dishonest, closed-minded, emotionally disturbed, professionally incompetent, unethical, a quack, a fanatic, a Nazi, a hired gun for vested interests, and engaged in criminal activity (conspiracy, stalking of females, and other unspecified acts) and has made anti-Semitic remarks. In 2000, after Attorney Christopher Grell, of San Francisco filed a suit on behalf of a former Clark patient who accused her of fraud, Bolen issued a defamatory message charging that Grell is professionally incompetent and had filed a false report with the FBI. During a deposition, Bolen provided invoices indicating that from 1999 through 2001, he had billed Clark for more than $140,000.

In 2001, after learning that the Florida Board of Dentistry had asked Robert S. Baratz, MD, DDS, PhD, to provide expert testimony against Dr. Phillips, Bolen issued a series of libelous reports claiming that Baratz was emotionally unstable, had committed perjury, and had misrepresented many of his credentials in order to market himself as an expert witness. Most of these messages were republished by Clark supporters on Web sites, in news group postings, and in other e-mail messages. In 2003, Bolen began "helping" Dr. Kadile's defense by issuing further lies about Dr. Baratz.

None of us are thin-skinned or care when people attack our ideas. But unjustified attacks on our character or professional competence are another matter. As Bolen's campaign unfolded, my colleagues and I have notified him and many of the people spreading his messages that libel is a serious matter and that they had better stop. Some did, but it soon became clear that others would not. To defend ourselves, several of us filed suit for libel:

The "Racketeering" Suits

In July 2001, New Century Press filed a cross-complaint charging the four of us and about 30 other defendants with committing at least 12 types of crimes and about 20 other civil wrongs. The most serious charge was "racketeering." The defendants included Quackwatch; the National Council Against Health Fraud; several Web site operators who have (justifiably) criticized Hulda Clark's theories and methods; the Internet Service Provider who hosts the healthfraud discussion list; several people who have posted messages to news groups; the woman and her husband who sued Clark for fraud; three people who had filed expert declarations in a case in which the Federal Trade Commission obtained an injunction against a company marketing devices and herbs with claims based on Clark's theories; and "Roes 1-500." Several of the defendants were not legal entities, and at least one did not exist. A few months later, a second nearly identical cross-complaint was filed against me in connection with an unrelated consumer-protection suit in Los Angeles in which I was an expert witness against a company accused of false advertising.

After the cross-complaint was filed, Bolen and his allies immediately distributed messages headlined "Stephen Barrett Charged with Racketeering, and Civil Rights Violations, in California." The World Chiropractic Alliance, for example published a news article called "Quack Buster Busted," accompanied with my picture overprinted with the words "Stephen Barrett, who now faces a lawsuit for 'racketeering.'" [15] Normally, an article of this type would be sufficient to enable the poster to be sued into oblivion. But since the filing of the suit was a "news event," its contents could be reported as "news" without risk to the reporter. A few days later, Bolen issued another message suggesting why the suit was filed:

The lawsuit . . . is going to be VERY EXPENSIVE for them—all of a sudden. I'm not an attorney, but still I'm going to estimate that their case will cost them somewhere around $750,000 to $2,000.000 in legal fees. Even the small defendants are going to have to cough up $100,000 in fees, apiece [3].

The cross-complaint was remarkable in that it did not allege a single fact that supported any of the charges. Although every defendant was accused of committing every one of the alleged wrongs, the documents did not identify a single specific act that was improper. Without this information, courts normally dismiss a suit for failing to state a cause of action or order the attorney to make some actual allegations. In June 2002, faced with a motion to compel disclosure of the nonexistent basis of the remaining charges, New Century Press withdrew its cross-complaint. Clark testified in a deposition that she knew of no criminal wrongdoing on my part. My suit against her for malicious prosecution was settled in 2010 with confidential terms.

Bolen's Credibility

In addition to his juvenile name-calling, Bolen habitually misuses words to suit his purposes. Although Clark's training as a practitioner was consisted of a mail-order "naturopathy degree" from a nonaccredited school, Bolen refers to her as a "leading edge health professional." Although Clark never published any research findings in a reputable scientific journal, Bolen described her as a "medical researcher" who operated a "research clinic." Although research patients are customarily treated free of charge and Clark's patients typically paid thousands of dollars per week, Bolen referred to Clark as a "health humanitarian." He often refers to himself as a"consumer advocate," a term he appears to have copied from me.

Bolen is prone to exaggeration. He addresses many of his e-mail messages to "Millions of health freedom fighters" and has stated that "Health Freedom Fighters" outnumbered "Quackbusters" 100,000 to 1. In 2007, he claimed that his e-mail newsletter had 285,000 subscribers including " 12,000 media, 85,000 employees of government agencies involved in health care, 30,000 health care activists,15,000 environmentalists, 130,000 health care or health industry professionals, and the rest miscellaneous." I have no idea whether that was true. I do know, however, that he sent it to many people who didn't ask for it and, as a result, got into hot water with spam regulators who forced his Internet service provider to stop distributing the newsletter [16].

Bolen also appears to have an overactive fantasy life, blaming me for many events that I knew nothing about. In one message, he suggested that I received "as much as one million dollars" a year as an editorial board member of an (unnamed) magazine that accepts advertising from a "foreign drug cartel." (Some day, perhaps, he will identify the magazine so I can collect what he imagines.) In another message, Bolen claimed that in 1976, a federal judge had ordered me to stop criticizing chiropractors (or risk imprisonment) and that I had stopped until the judge died. The order to which Bolen referred was issued in 1987, did not forbid criticism, and did not apply to me because I was not a party to the suit. What's more, the former judge was practicing law in Chicago. It took me less than a minute with a search engine to find information about her current work [17].

Bolen also pretends there is a secret funding source behind all antiquackery activities [3]. It doesn't seem to matter to him that (a) people who work hard and live prudently for many years don't need outside funding to support whatever they want to do; (b) many people are willing to perform public service without being paid; and (c) running a noncommercial Web site costs almost nothing. Bolen's Web site has posted more than 30 articles stating that what he calls the "quackbuster operation" is "run out of a New York Ad agency" that is directed and financed by the pharmaceutical industry. Bolen's 2006 deposition revealed that he knows this is not true. When asked to name the agency, he admitted that there isn't any [4].

Bolen also seems to enjoy claiming that I have been a failure as a psychiatrist and that my allies and I have lost battles with his allies on all fronts, especially in court. In one message, for example, he claimed that I was never able to hold a full-time job; that my psychiatric "claim to fame" was a 4 to 8-hour-a-week job at a Pennsylvania mental hospital from 1978 through 1993, and that from 1976 through 1978 I could not get a paying job [18]. In case anyone wonders, I worked full-time as a psychiatrist from the time I left psychiatric training (1961) until the mid-1980s, when I reduced my workload so that I could spend more time investigating and writing about quackery. During this period, my part-time jobs and private practice averaged more than 40 hours a week. My curriculum vitae, which Bolen apparently can't understand, indicates that throughout this period, I worked at two outpatient clinics as well as in my private office, and that during the first half of this period, I also worked at Allentown State Hospital. Contrary to Bolen's statement, my mental hospital work took place between 1967 and 1977, during which time I worked there from 8 to 24 hours per week and supervised the care of hundreds of patients. This was during the period when new psychiatric drugs enabled large numbers of chronic mentally ill patients to re-enter the community. As my patients left, I gradually decreased my hospital hours and increased my outpatient clinic hours to provide continuity of care that would help them remain stable.

Bolen's comments about legal matters were mainly related to suits that the National Council Against Health Fraud (NCAHF) filed in California against individuals and companies that were falsely advertising. NCAHF sued about 40 defendants, and I was also involved as a consultant or expert witness in similar cases filed by other parties. Overall, at least ten were settled with agreements under which the defendants promised to stop making the false claims to which we objected. A few cases were dropped for technical reasons, such as the discovery that the defendant was not doing enough business in California to justify continuing the suit. In two other cases, involving about ten defendants, NCAHF received adverse rulings in which the courts rejected our legal theory that sellers should carry the burden of proving that what they claim is true. (The courts ruled that the state attorney general can enforce the law in this manner, but private citizens and public-interest group cannot.) These rulings don't prevent similar cases from being brought in the future, but they make them more complicated than they are worth.

Bolen's most persistent smear is his description of me as "de-licensed." He is fully aware that "de-licensed" means having one's license taken away by regulatory authorities and that I merely retired in 1993. I have committed no misconduct and retired in good standing, but Bolen likes to pretend that I have done something wrong. The Pennsylvania Board of Medicine now classifies my license as "Active – Retired," which means that I can prescribe for myself and my immediate family. Since I no longer see patients, there is no reason to maintain a broader license.

After losing the ability to send his newsletter, Bolen quieted down considerably for more than three years. During this time, I also saw very little evidence that practitioners in trouble were hiring him. Recently, however, he issued a few reports including one about me. He's been good at making himself a nuisance, but from what I have seen, his credibility is so low that most people whom he contacts or writes about will ignore him. In fact, in 2013, an anti-vaccine activist described how Bolen had been trying to drum up business among various anti-vax and "health freedom " groups but had come across as so bizarre and nonfactual that they rejected him. In a detailed article, Ginger Taylor concluded: "Be advised . . . Tim Bolen just makes up his own reality. He is a carpetbagger who has nothing to offer us. He has no credibility." [19]

References

  1. Barrett S. The bizarre claims of Hulda Clark. Quackwatch, updated October 23, 2009.
  2. Swiss company charged by FTC with making unsubstantiated health claims. FTC news release, Jan 27, 2003.
  3. Bolen T. Smoking out Barrett's paymaster. July 26, 2001.
  4. Bolen T. Deposition, April 12, 2006. In Cavitat Medical Technologies v. Aetna. U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado, Civil Action No. 04-CV-1849-MSK-OES.
  5. Crabtree P, Dibble S. BioPulse to sell its cancer lab in Tijuana. San Diego Union-Tribune, Feb 17, 2001.
  6. Bolen T. Clark update—The clinic closure, and more. April 2001.
  7. Dibble S, Crabtree P. Baja agencies put restrictions on alternative health clinics. San Diego Tribune, June 21, 2001.
  8. For further details, search the State of Florida Web site for Case No. 99-4690.
  9. Disciplinary proceedings against Eleazar M. Kadile, M.D. Quackwatch Web site, posted Feb 10, 2003.
  10. Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois, No. 01 L 009026, filed July 30, 2001.
  11. Barrett et al vs Clark et al. Verified complaint for damages for libel, libel per se, and conspiracy to commit libel. Superior Court of the State of California, County of Alameda. Filed Nov 3, 2000.
  12. Barrett et al vs Rosenthal et al. Appeal from dismissal pursuant to CCP section 425.16 Alameda County Superior Court, Case No. 833021-5. Filed in March 2002 in the California Court of Appeal, First Appellate District, Division Two.
  13. Dr. Stephen Barrett and Dr. Robert S. Baratz vs Wayne Obie, Talk Canada, Frances Perrin, and Talk International. Ontario Superior Court of Justice, Filed June 28, 2001.
  14. Stephen Barrett, M.D. vs. Owen R. Fonorow and Intelisoft Multimedia, Inc. Circuit Court of the Eighteenth Judicial Circuit, Dupage County, Illinois, No.01 L 820., Filed July 30, 2001.
  15. "Quack buster busted." Healthwatch Newsletter, Aug 6, 2001.
  16. Bolen T. Tim Bolen—Where have you been? Bolen Report, Nov 23, 2006.
  17. Barrett S. Careless reporting by Tim Bolen. Quackwatch, Aug 26, 2001.
  18. Bolen T. Who are these quackbusters? Feb 2, 2003.
  19. Taylor G. Tim Bolen shoots himself in the foot from his hip. Autism One Web site, June 28, 2013.

This page was revised on July 3, 2013.