Sherri Tenpenny is an Ohio doctor who went viral after her testimony at a COVID-19 vaccine hearing. Tenpenny discussed multiple debunked and baseless conspiracy theories about the coronavirus vaccine at the Ohio House Health Committee hearing. The 63-year-old anti-vaccination advocate is an osteopathic physician. She has written four books opposing vaccinations and has spread the debunked theory vaccines cause autism, according to Politifact.
During the June 8, 2021, hearing, Tenpenny discussed false conspiracy theories including that those who have received the COVID-19 vaccine have become magnetized and that there is a connection between the vaccine and 5G cellular towers. Tenpenny testified for nearly an hour before the House of Representatives committee after she was invited by GOP lawmakers. The hearing was to discuss an anti-vaccine bill proposed by Republicans that would bar employers from mandating vaccinations and would prohibit regulations forcing unvaccinated people to wear masks, along with other anti-vax proposals.
Clips of the hearing being spread widely on social media show Tenpenny falsely telling lawmakers, “I’m sure you’ve seen the pictures all over the internet of people who have had these shots and now they’re magnetized. You can put a key on their forehead, it sticks. You can put spoons and forks all over and they can stick because now we think there is a metal piece to that.”
The anti-vaxxer Tenpenny also spread other misinformation, falsely saying, “There’s been people who have long suspected that there’s been some sort of an interface, yet to be defined interface, between what’s being injected in these shots and all of the 5G towers.”
Tenpenny, who also falsely said the COVID-19 vaccines have caused more than 5,000 deaths in the United States, told The Washington Post she stands by her testimony, and added, “I do believe greatly that people should have a choice on what gets injected to their bodies because once you have injected it you can’t uninject it.”
Here’s what you need to know about Sherri Tenpenny:
1. Tenpenny Was Invited by the GOP Lawmaker Who Proposed the Bill, Who Previously Compared Employers Who Require Vaccinations to Nazis During the Holocaust
Tenpenny was invited to the hearing by GOP Representative Jennifer Gross, of West Chester, who is the primary sponsor of the anti-vaccine bill, House Bill 248, and she was allowed to testify at Gross’ insistence, House Health Committee Chairman Scott Lipps, also a Republican, told The Columbus Dispatch. While introducing her, Gross told Tenpenny, “What an honor to have you here.”
Gross, who is a nurse, sparked controversy herself in May 2021 when she compared vaccine mandates by schools, employers and hospitals to the Holocaust, according to Cleveland Jewish News. Gross told reporters businesses requiring proof of vaccination was “eerily similar” to Nazi Germany requiring Jews to wear yellow badges to identify their faith, the news site reported.
“Those that were lost are a grave, grave reminder that we should not be forcing anyone to take experimentation, as this vaccine is an experimental use authorized vaccine,” Gross told reporters, according to Cleveland Jewish News.
Gross added, “I would argue that I love Israel, and I always support Israel, but that we need to be aware, and those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it, and that we should remember that we lost over 6 million Jewish people. Did they require our Jewish people to wear a star? And MetroHealth is requiring people to wear a sticker on there to show that they’re vaccinated or not vaccinated. What will come next?”
The bill has drawn widespread opposition from healthcare groups, public health officials and scientists, according to The Dispatch. Along with blocking businesses from requiring employees to be vaccinated and eliminating mask mandates for the unvaccinated, the bill would require schools to tell parents of an existing law that allows medical, religious or “reasons of conscience” exceptions to childhood vaccinations, The Dispatch reports.
Tenpenny was speaking in support of the bill. The Centers for Disease Control recently debunked Tenpenny’s comments about metal being in COVID-19 vaccines and them causing people to be magnetic.
The CDC said in a June 2021 bulletin, “All COVID-19 vaccines are free from metals such as iron, nickel, cobalt, lithium, and rare earth alloys, as well as any manufactured products such as microelectronics, electrodes, carbon nanotubes, and nanowire semiconductors. In addition, the typical dose for a COVID-19 vaccine is less than a milliliter, which is not enough to allow magnets to be attracted to your vaccination site even if the vaccine was filled with a magnetic metal.”
Lipps, the committee chairman, told the Ohio Capital Journal, “I do believe Representative Gross requested Dr. Tenpenny to speak, and she got a little off balance, I think she got a little outside the lines of what we were intending or hoping to keep her in. I hope that didn’t harm her credibility, but I think some committee members walked away with big questions.”
2. Tenpenny Studied at the University of Toledo & the Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine
Tenpenny, an Ohio native who now lives in Middleburg Heights in Cuyahoga County, near Cleveland, studied at the University of Toledo, graduating in 1980 with a degree in biology, according to her website. She then graduated from the Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine in Missouri in 1984 as a doctor of osteopathic medicine.
According to Healthline, “A doctor of osteopathic medicine (DO) is a licensed physician who aims to improve people’s overall health and wellness by treating the whole person, not just a condition or disease they may have. This includes osteopathic manipulative medicine, which involves stretching, massaging, and moving the musculoskeletal system.”
Tenpenny has not done any specialized clinical research in immunology, vaccinology or public health, according to her resume. She has also not published any peer-reviewed studies on vaccines or diseases. She has published four books expressing her anti-vaccine views, including most recently, Saying No to Vaccines: A Resource Guide for All Ages, which was published in 2008.
Tenpenny was married to Kevin Carey until his death in 2014, according to his obituary. Tenpenny’s husband was a retired Navy pilot. They had been together since 2005.
3. Tenpenny, Who Has Been Called 1 of the Top 12 Spreaders of COVID-19 Misinformation During the Coronavirus Pandemic, Was Banned From Facebook & Also Supported the Pro-Trump ‘Stop the Steal’ Movement
Tenpenny was among 12 people named by the Center for Countering Digital Hate in a 2021 report titled The Disinformation Dozen. The CCDH said about its report, “Just twelve anti-vaxxers are responsible for almost two-thirds of anti-vaccine content circulating on social media platforms. This new analysis of content posted or shared to social media over 812,000 times between February and March uncovers how a tiny group of determined anti-vaxxers is responsible for a tidal wave of disinformation – and shows how platforms can fix it by enforcing their standards.” The list also includes Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Joseph Meracola and Ty and Charlene Bollinger.
The CCDH wrote, “Sherri Tenpenny is an osteopath physician who spreads anti-vaccine sentiment and false claims about the safety and efficacy of masks via her social media channels. While her Facebook account has been removed, her Twitter and Instagram are still intact.”
The CCDH added that Tenpenny, “regularly advocates against mask-wearing,” and in June 2020, “tweeted that the longer you wear a mask, the more unhealthy you get. Tenpenny alleged that masks suppress your immune system.”
The report states, “After Instagram took down an Instagram Live with disgraced former doctor Andrew Wakefield, Tenpenny took to Instagram again with Wakefield with a video where Wakefield calls COVID-19 an ‘alleged plague,’ and errantly discusses a vaccine that ‘has killed more children than it has saved from the targeted disease.’ This video alone contains numerous violations of Facebook’s stated policies yet remains available despite Instagram seeing fit to remove it the first time it was posted.”
According to CNN, Tenpenny has also shared conspiracy theories about the 2020 presidential election. She used the pro-Trump hashtag, “Stop the Steal,” on Twitter while showing support for fellow anti-vaxxer Dr. Simone Gold, CNN reported. Gold is facing charges in connection to the January 6, 2021, Capitol riot, according to the Justice Department.
CNN reports Tenpenny posted a “call to action” on January 5 on Telegram and quoted the Oathkeepers, a right-wing extremist militant group, on the social media page, saying, “Get to DC and STAND!”
4. Tenpenny, Who Sparked Controversy in 2015 When a Speaking Tour in Australia Was Canceled Because of Her Anti-Vaccine Views, Was Ruled Unqualified to Be an Expert on Vaccines by a Federal Judge
Tenpenny is no stranger to controversy. In 2015, she was scheduled to go on a speaking tour in Australia, but it was canceled after an outcry over her anti-vaccine views, according to the Australian Broadcasting Company. Tenpenny issued a statement saying, “pro-vaccine extremists had made continual, anonymous threats of vandalism and violence.”
According to The Center for Public Integrity, a federal judge ruled in 2010 that Tenpenny was “unqualified” to be an expert witness in a vaccine-related lawsuit, writing in his ruling, “Television interviews do not an expert make.”
Judge Richard Abell wrote, ” Expertise is not acquired through osmosis or accretion, just as television interviews do not an expert make. Her ideas on vaccine injury have not been exposed to any critical analysis of those in the relevant field, let alone peer-reviewed medical journals. There is no way to ascertain whether Dr. Tenpenny’s opinion is credibly accepted by those who would know; there are only the patent defects in her report that militate for the opposite.”
According to the Center for Public Integrity report, Tenpenny, “offers a $595, eight-week course in anti-vaccine talking points.” Reporter Liz Essley Whyte wrote, “The coronavirus seems to have been good for business, too. ‘Warning: Due to Coronavirus (COVID-19), we are seeing record demand for this offer,’ read a banner on Tenpenny’s website earlier this year, above an ad for a ‘hydrated zeolite’ spray that promised to ‘fight back against heavy metals and toxins’ ($79.95 for a 30-day supply).”
5. Tenpenny Received a Federal Coronavirus PPP Loan for $72,000 for Her Tenpenny Integrative Medical Center
Tenpenny makes money through videos posted on social media, through her books and affiliate partnerships, by selling supplements and through her company, the Tenpenny Integrative Medical Center. A report from the Center for Countering Digital Hate shows how Tenpenny has profited off of the pandemic.
Tenpenny earned affiliate marketing payments from Ty and Charlene Bollinger by promoting their misinformation video series The Truth About Vaccines, according to the CCDH. “Archived copies of a web page advertising their affiliate marketing scheme listed a number of leading anti-vaxxers including Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Sherri Tenpenny and Mike Adams amongst the top ten of their ‘overall sales leaderboard.’ The same page states that affiliates will ‘earn 40% commissions on all digital products and 30% on all physical product sales,’ with video packages currently for sale at prices of up to $499.29,” the Center for Countering Digital Hate writes.
According to the Center for Public Integrity, the Bollingers are social media ” influencers making millions by dealing doubt about the coronavirus vaccines.”
According to The Washington Post, the Tenpenny Integrative Medical Center, received a federal coronavirus Paycheck Protection Program loan for $72,000.