In a bizarre testimony riddled with easily and roundly disproved falsehoods, an anti-vaccine doctor somewhat prominent in conspiracy circles testified on the Ohio House floor on Tuesday, saying without any legitimate evidence, that COVID vaccines cause people to develop a strong magnetic field and attract metals.
Sherri Tenpenny, identified by anti-disinformation advocates as one of the most prominent anti-vaccine disinformation spreaders in the U.S., falsely told Ohio House Health Committee members that vaccinated people can make keys, spoons and forks stick to their bodies because, according to her, the vaccine contains metal (presumably magnetized). This conspiracy theory is, of course, patently false and incomprehensible, coming from someone supposedly in the medical profession. Scientists and medical professionals have said that there are no metals in COVID vaccines, and even if there were, they would not cause a person to become magnetic.
Tenpenny’s evidence for her bizarre theory? Pictures she’s seen on the internet. “I’m sure you’ve seen the pictures all over the internet of people who have had these shots and now they’re magnetized,” she said, referring to a debunked series of viral videos from social media platforms like Facebook.
She also claimed, without providing sources, that thousands of people have died because of the vaccine. In reality, public health experts have found no links between deaths and receiving a COVID vaccine. If anything, the opposite is true: vaccines save lives by preventing spread of the novel coronavirus, which has killed almost 600,000 people in the U.S. so far.
Concerningly, Tenpenny was spreading dangerous conspiracy theories in the Ohio legislature to help Republicans bolster the case for their bill, which prohibits hospitals, nursing homes, businesses, colleges, and a number of other institutions from requiring vaccinations. Ohio Capital Journal, which was the first to cover Tenpenny’s testimony, has reported that public health professionals have warned that the policy could worsen public health outcomes and potentially cause outbreaks of COVID-19. The bill has been cosponsored by 16 Republicans in the Ohio House.
Despite the fact that nearly the entirety of Tenpenny’s testimony was false, Republican lawmakers thanked her for testifying. One Republican representative, who previously grotesquely compared requiring vaccine proof to the Holocaust, said it was an “honor” to have Tenpenny testify.
Notwithstanding the absurd claims in Tenpenny’s testimony, it may still help Republicans pass the harmful legislation. Ohio’s House Health Committee chair Republican Scott Lipps said, “I hope that didn’t harm [Tenpenny’s] credibility, but I think some committee members walked away with big questions.” It’s unclear what credibility Lipps thought she had to begin with.
The committee also heard from other anti-vaccine conspiracy theorists offering more bizarre testimonies. At another point during the hearing on the bill, an anti-vaccine nurse attempted to “prove” the magnetism theory, trying and failing to stick a key to her neck. Lawyer Tom Renz spoke in favor of the bill as a legislative alternative to his lawsuit — which was panned by a judge for being “incomprehensible” — against the “tyranny” of the Ohio Health Department.
However offbeat and easily disproved the conspiracies offered to Ohio House representatives are, however, the anti-vaccine movement is gaining traction among Republicans across the country. Lawmakers in over 40 states have filed bills to bar vaccine mandates in various institutions, much to the alarm of public health experts and medical professionals.
But there have not been any reports of widespread vaccine mandates. Rather, Republicans are likely using this opportunity to fearmonger about Democrats and the government while uplifting dangerous voices like Tenpenny’s — voices that have the potential to kill.
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