The Perfect Enemy | An Ohio doctor said coronavirus vaccines make you magnetic. The state wants to pull her license - cleveland.com
February 16, 2024

An Ohio doctor said coronavirus vaccines make you magnetic. The state wants to pull her license – cleveland.com

An Ohio doctor said coronavirus vaccines make you magnetic. The state wants to pull her license  cleveland.com

COLUMBUS, Ohio – At the height of one of the most significant mass vaccination campaigns in human history, a Cleveland-area physician publicly warned state lawmakers that COVID-19 shots “interface” with cell towers and make people who receive them magnetic.

Almost two years later, Ohio regulators are considering suspending her license.

Dr. Sherri Tenpenny, at the behest of state GOP Rep. Jennifer Gross, addressed the Ohio House Health Committee on June 8, 2021, backing legislation under consideration at the time that would have dramatically weakened Ohio’s vaccination laws.

While doing so, Tenpenny uncorked a firehose of untrue and misleading claims about vaccination. She baselessly linked vaccines to diseases like ALS and cancer, and made her now-infamous remarks about vaccines (which unequivocally do not magnetize their recipients).

“I’m sure you’ve seen the pictures all over the internet of people who have had these shots and now they’re magnetized,” Tenpenny said. “They can put a key on their forehead and it sticks … There have been people who have long suspected there’s an interface, yet to be defined, an interface between what’s being injected in these shots and all of the 5G towers.”

The bill failed, but Tenpenny’s testimony drew mocking national media attention to the Ohio Statehouse.

Although most people likely have never heard of Tenpenny, she’s something of a celebrity at the intersection of the anti-vaccine movement and right-wing politics. She has made media appearances alongside conspiracy theorists like Sandy Hook school shooting denier Alex Jones and 2020 election denier Mike Lindell. She appeared in the documentary “Plandemic,” which seeded some of the earliest conspiracy theories about the coronavirus pandemic.

Technically, the state’s case against Tenpenny has nothing to do with her comments to lawmakers. About five weeks after her testimony, investigators with the State Medical Board of Ohio, which regulates state physicians, initiated contact with Tenpenny for unspecified reasons. Over time, investigators visited her office, left a business card, emailed to schedule an interview, sent written questions, and issued a subpoena to appear at a deposition. Tenpenny refused to cooperate.

In other words, Tenpenny risks have her license suspended not for her vaccine commentary but for refusing to cooperate with a state investigation that launched shortly afterward. The state has never explained what prompted it to start an investigation into Tenpenny in the first place.

At an administrative hearing Wednesday, state attorneys said Tenpenny tried to “thwart” their attempt to investigate based on her “guess” of their interest. Neither Tenpenny nor her attorneys appeared at Wednesday’s hearing, held over the internet, to make closing arguments.

The state attorneys asked the board to suspend Tenpenny’s license until she cooperates.

Following the hearing, a board examiner must complete a report and recommendation, which will be presented to the full board for a final decision at a public meeting, according to Medical Board spokeswoman Jerica Stewart.

In written arguments, Tenpenny explicitly claimed the board’s investigation traces back to her public statements that “the board deemed to be dissemination of misinformation or disinformation or unapproved information about the COVID-19 vaccines; and/or political speech disapproved of by the board” about the vaccine bill.

She told board investigators the probe amounts to a “bad faith and unjustified assault on her licensure, livelihood, and constitutional rights.” While state law allows the board wide latitude to punish physicians who fail to cooperate with investigations, Tenpenny argued the statute is unconstitutional.

One of her attorneys, Tom Renz, also testified at the statehouse in support of other legislation filed as a backlash to health orders imposed in the wake of the pandemic. He later made headlines when the video hosting site YouTube removed footage of the committee hearing for violating its COVID-19 misinformation policy.

The Board of Medicine provided Tenpenny’s filings in response to a public records request but it redacted references to what was referred to as her “uncharged conduct.” Despite the voluminous redactions, the filing makes clear that Tenpenny contends that her public comments at the Statehouse sparked the investigation.

“Upon receipt of the investigative subpoena Dr. Tenpenny believed the board was abusing its investigative authority to harass and intimidate her solely due to her political views on House Bill 248, the Enact Vaccine Choice and Anti-Discrimination Act, and public statements about the safety and efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccines,” her attorneys said.

According to her filings, Tenpenny has spent 22 years and more than 50,000 hours researching “problems associated with vaccines.” Between March 2020 and December 2021 she said she participated in more than 600 interviews on COVID-19.

Profiting on disinformation

Some of the information Tenpenny provided highlights both her ability to generate a profit off the explosion of junk science and alternative medicine that rose with the coronavirus pandemic, and the medical board’s failure to reel in the physicians who peddle it.

Since Tenpenny’s testimony, the Board renewed Tenpenny’s license, although Stewart said at the time this is largely an automated process.

Tenpenny Integrative Medical Center continues to operate. It sells a variety of medical services, purported health and wellness supplements, and shirts that say “unmasked, unvaccinated, unafraid” on them.

In the meantime, Tenpenny claimed she’s in the process of expanding via the opening of wellness centers focusing on “external counter pulsation” to treat heart disease and blood disorders.

A website for Tenpenny’s “education portal” offers classes ($99 to enroll) like “Chlorine Dioxide and Restoring Ancient Medicine” – a reference to the bleaching chemical and its supposed clinical uses along with a “practical guide.”

The title “doctor” provides a sheen of credibility and expertise to misinformation Tenpenny spreads that mainstream medical officials spent much of the pandemic seeking to counteract. Her resume offers a long list of domestic and international business and medical conference she claims she spoke at. It also lists her book, “Saying no to Vaccines: A Resource Guide for All Ages,” which sells for $134 on Amazon. That’s along with an “educational boot camp” she hosts three times per year.

The issue began to capture the attention of the medical establishment in late 2021, after the de Beaumont Foundation issued a report on the “Disinformation Doctors” – a small subset of physicians who play an outsize role spreading misinformation and often capitalizing financially on it as well. The report called out the “failure of state medical boards” to act and their rubber stamping of license renewals of doctors spreading lies about COVID-19.

“State medical boards must act immediately to support the overwhelming, evidence based medical consensus, stop the attack on science and medicine, and most importantly, prevent further unnecessary COVID-19 deaths,” the report, which cites media coverage of Tenpenny’s Ohio appearance, states.

Jake Zuckerman covers state politics and policy for Cleveland.com and The Plain Dealer.