Former Arkansas governor sues Facebook over ads that used his likeness to promote CBD

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Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee has sued the owner of Facebook, saying the social media giant hosted bogus online ads which falsely depict him promoting CBD.

The lawsuit, against Meta Platforms Inc., is over advertising that used Huckabee’s name and image to flog Fortin brand CBD gummies, and identified him as CEO of the company that makes the product.

According to the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in the state of Delaware, where Meta is registered, Facebook allowed an ad that mimicked a Fox News web page suggesting Huckabee was leaving his show on Trinity Broadcasting Network, a religious channel, because of an autoimmune disease for which he was taking Fortin CBD gummies as an alternative to opioids and painkillers.

“As a God-fearing Christian, I would never in my life take drugs of any kind,” according to one quotation Huckabee said is falsely attributed to him. “CBD is completely safe, but the negative stigma around it meant there was still a problem with the CBD products on the market.”

‘A greater purpose’

According to the lawsuit, other ads suggested Huckabee was leaving Trinity to pursue “[a] greater purpose . . . ­– to endorse and promote Fortin CBD gummies,” and that CBD had delivered him “a miracle” that “ helped him turn his life around.”

One advertisement claims that Huckabee’s “main challenge in selling the CBD gummies is that demand exceeds supply because Plaintiff’s ‘CBD wellness line is not only 90% cheaper but also five times more effective than similar offerings from Bayer and other Big Pharma Companies.’”

The lawsuit, filed July 1, said Huckabee became aware of the bogus advertisements appearing on Facebook in May. It claims Meta’s ad library shows the advertisements went live on April 9 and remained visible on Facebook until at least June 6.

What Huckabee didn’t say:

A faux Fox News advertisement attributed several fictitious quotes to Huckabee, including:

  • “My health has not been good for years. I was in a four-year battle with this autoimmune disease, but without getting into all the details, the bottom line is it would leave all my major muscle in pain pretty much 24 hours a day. This led to extreme sleep deprivation too, which further weekend my immune system[.]”
  • “Some older men and women see CBD as having the hallucinogenic effects like ‘pot’ or ‘weed’ but that’s not true at all. CBD has no THC whatsoever, which means there are absolutely no hallucinogenic effects. As a God-fearing Christian, I would never in my life take drugs of any kind. CBD is completely safe, but the negative stigma around it meant there was still a problem with the CBD products on the market.”
  • “After connecting with this world[-]renowned team of doctors and scientists who found a solution to this problem, I can confidently say CBD is the future of medicine in America. This product is all natural, and is especially helpful for older people like myself [sic] battling high blood pressure, chronic pain, and sleep deprivation. I’ve never felt healthier[,] and I owe it all to this miracle.”
  • “CBD cured me and can save American lives[.]”

“Because Meta approved and maintained advertisements that unauthorizedly used and exploited Plaintiff’s name, photograph, and likeness, Plaintiff is now wrongly associated with the CBD industry and marijuana use,” according to the lawsuit.

Other celebs victimized

Facebook’s hosting of fraudulent advertisements for CBD products is nothing new. As early as 2021, news outlets started reporting instances in which Facebook ran ads that exploited the likenesses of other celebrities to sell CBD products. The lawsuit notes that Fox news personalities Laura Ingraham, Jeanine Pirro and Sean Hannity, and CNN medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta have all have been victims of the marketing scams.

Popular celebrities and even former President George W. Bush have been the victims of false product endorsements by CBD and other health supplement companies in recent years. Fake endorsements by actors Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock, country singer Blake Shelton, and celebrities Montel Williams, Oprah Winfrey and Ellen DeGeneres have circulated. Actor Clint Eastwood won a $6.1 million judgment in 2021 over a fake CBD endorsement based on his likeness.

Damages sought

Huckabee’s lawsuit claims violations of Arkansas’ Frank Broyles Publicity Protection Act, which reserves use of the citizens’ “names, voices, signatures, photographs, and likenesses . . . for their benefit and the benefit of their families.”

“Plaintiff is entitled to recover punitive damages from Meta for its malicious conduct. In light of the surrounding circumstances, Meta knew or should have known that its conduct would naturally and probably result in damage, yet Meta continued such conduct in reckless disregard of the consequences from which malice may be inferred,” according to the lawsuit.

In addition to the punitive damages, the lawsuit seeks an injunction prohibiting Meta from exposing the ads, and court costs.

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