© 2023 WFAE
90.7 Charlotte 93.7 Southern Pines 90.3 Hickory 106.1 Laurinburg
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
See the latest news and updates about COVID-19 and its impact on the Charlotte region, the Carolinas and beyond.

Central Piedmont Science Instructor Encouraged Students To Read Coronavirus Conspiracy Theories

Bobby Brandon
Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 4.0
Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte


You may have heard the false claim that wearing masks is harmful. Or the false conspiracy theory that Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, is part of the “Deep State.”

Virologist Judy Mikovits has been widely discredited for pushing these and other ideas. She’s featured in the coronavirus conspiracy film “Plandemic” -- now banned from social media sites including Facebook and YouTube -- in which she claims top scientists in the United States are conspiring against her. So Central Piedmont Community College student Evie O’Keefe was surprised when she saw that instructor Deborah Dion highlighted books by Mikovits on the website for her biology class.

They were listed under an uploaded document called “Books I Enjoyed Reading.”

“The names of the books really screamed, like ‘Alert! Alert!’ Those were 'Plague of Corruption' and 'The Case Against Masks,'” O’Keefe said.

O’Keefe emailed Dion to express concern that she seemed to be endorsing pseudo-science. According to emails O’Keefe provided, Dion wrote back a short while later. Dion did not respond to multiple requests for comment from WFAE.

“I have read these books and I do agree with her ... I am simply saying that I believe there are two sides of every story,” Dion wrote. “... She is not the only one who has been discredited because of the experiments they did with vaccines, And I know of so many people who have diseases caused by vaccines (including dogs I have had in the past.)”

In “Plandemic,” Mikovits promotes conspiracies about vaccines and the coronavirus.

O’Keefe was shocked at the response from her professor.

“My mouth dropped open and I gasped,” she said.

O’Keefe said she met with Central Piedmont administrators. After that meeting, she said her instructor added a disclaimer to the reading list. “Some of the books are written by scientists who have been discredited,” it read in part. “I have read them and my opinion is that they were silenced by certain authorities.”

O’Keefe said then the list disappeared, apparently at the request of Central Piedmont.

“The college took the student’s concerns seriously and investigated the situation promptly,” Central Piedmont spokesman Jeff Lowrance said in an email.

“Academic Affairs leaders ultimately decided to have the reading list removed from the course until they could ensure its messaging and delivery were better aligned with the course’s student learning outcomes," Lowrance said. "They also wanted to make sure any controversial reading selections were not received as an attempt by the college to sway the opinion of the students.”

O’Keefe said she is transferring out of Dion’s class.

Click here for the latest coronavirus news on WFAE’s live blog.

Sign up here for The Frequency, WFAE’s daily email newsletter.

What questions do you have about the coronavirus? What has this experience been like for you? Share your questions below.


Claire Donnelly is WFAE's health reporter. She previously worked at NPR member station KGOU in Oklahoma and also interned at WBEZ in Chicago and WAMU in Washington, D.C. She holds a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University and attended college at the University of Virginia, where she majored in Comparative Literature and Spanish. Claire is originally from Richmond, Virginia. Reach her at cdonnelly@wfae.org or on Twitter @donnellyclairee.