Virginia Snake Oil: Love Potion?

Virginia Snake Oil: Love Potion Number 9?

In the soap opera that is the public corruption trial of former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell and his former NFL Cheerleader wife Maureen, the defense claims the couple’s relationship was bad, so the Gov didn’t know the Mrs. had a crush on “diet supplement” peddler Jonnie Williams and tried to trade government favors in return for his high-priced gifts. Today, however, the focus shifted to the patent nostrum sold by said Mr. Williams, a snake oil named Anatabloc.

The active ingredient in Anatabloc is Anatabine, an alkaloid derived from tobacco. Star Scientific, Mr. William’s company at the time, sold discount cigarettes and smokeless tobacco through a subsidiary, but sales weren’t too good, so … right. Anatabloc was said to “reduce inflammation and support a healthy metabolism” but was marketed as a “dietary supplement” to avoid those pesky clinical trials required of drugs. That didn’t keep the firm from claiming that the crap could mitigate Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, thyroiditis and traumatic brain injuries. You know, like a drug. Finally, the FDA caught them at it and issued a stern letter. Heavens to Betsy.

So that’s what Virginia First Lady Maureen McDonnell was shilling in the Executive Mansion in 2011 on behalf of love interest Jonnie Williams.  Mr. Williams claims he viewed the gifts of luxury items and loans of his vacation resort home and Ferrari sports car to the Governor and his wife as part of a business relationship, but Mrs. McDonnell’s lawyer claims she was smitten with Mr. Williams.

Wait a minute. Is romantic attraction a result of taking Anatabloc? That’s worth billions.


“Diet Supplement Anatabloc Is Focus Of Bob McDonnell Corruption Trial,” Gary Robertson, Reuters via Huntington Post

“The McDonnell Scandal: What’s The Dope Behind Star Scientific Supplement Products?” David Kroll, Forbes

“Anatomy of Anatabloc,” John Reid Blackwell, Richmond Times-Dispatch

“Witness: Maureen McDonnell Pitched Company’s ‘MS Cure’ To Ann Romney,” Nicole LaFond, Talking Points Memo

“VA Health Director Skeptical of Jonnie Williams,” Matthew Barakat and Larry O’Dell, Associated Press

“Health secretary did not believe Williams’ claims,” Jim Nolan and Frank Green, Richmond Times-Dispatch


“The Blame Maureen Game,” Dahlia Lithwick, Slate

“What’s in Maureen McDonnell’s Louis Vuitton handbag? Status, insecurity and maybe jail time.” Robin Givhan, Washington Post


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Image by Mike Licht. Download a copy here. Creative Commons license; credit Mike Licht,

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