COLUMBUS, Ohio — A Cleveland doctor who falsely claimed that the COVID-19 vaccine makes people magnetic and may be connected to 5G towers is currently under investigation by the state medical board.
Dr. Sherri Tenpenny, an Olmsted Falls osteopathic physician, has been failing to cooperate with investigators for more than a year, including by defying a subpoena, according to the board's formal action letter.
Although the letter doesn't go into detail on why the original investigation began, as investigations are confidential, the medical board said the first time an investigator reached out to Tenpenny was just a few weeks after she spoke at the Ohio Statehouse in June of 2021.
The doctor gave an egregiously erroneous testimony for a "medical freedom" type house bill, one which never passed.
"I'm sure you've seen the pictures all over the internet of people who've had these shots, and now they're magnetized, and [if they] put a key on their forehead, it sticks," she said, repeating a conspiracy theory. "They can put spoons and forks all over them and they can stick because — now we think that there's a metal piece to that."
State Rep. Beth Liston (D-Dublin), who is also a physician, challenged each of Tenpenny's claims, much to the audience's frustration.
"There [sic] has been people who have long suspected that there was some sort of an interface, yet to be defined, in the interface between what's being injected in the shots and all of the 5G towers," Tenpenny continued in her demonstrably false testimony.
Right on cue, someone claiming to be a nurse practitioner attempted to stick a key to her neck after asserting she, herself, was magnetized. It did not work.
"It sounds like maybe that's why she's being investigated," Case Western Reserve University law professor Sharona Hoffman said. "It's not 100% crystal clear that she violated anything, but they're just trying to investigate."
But could the board take action against someone for spreading disinformation? Hoffman said potentially.
"That sometimes is a difficult question," she said. "It has to be specifically in order to solicit patients or you specifically get money for those false misrepresentations."
While testifying, the physician did mention her books, podcast, blog and social media. On her website, she sells "courses," detailing COVID-19 misinformation.
"You have to balance people's First Amendment rights with people's responsibility towards the public if they are physicians," Hoffman said.
The board stated in their letter that the doctor said she did not believe the investigation was justified, so she would not be cooperating. This is not the most ideal, or legitimate, legal defense.
"If you believe the investigation is baseless, you should have an easy time defending yourself," Hoffman added. "You can't simply ignore them."
Tenpenny now has a timeline and she could only ignore the board for thirty more days. If she failed to cooperate, this could lead to harsher penalties for her, which could include a $20,000 fine in addition to other punishments ranging from temporarily limiting her license to permanently revoking it.
"There are people who just don't want government and who don't want oversight," the professor said. "Other conduct seems to indicate that that might be her philosophy."
Hoffman is referencing Tenpenny's testimony, behavior and websites. She sells "educational" courses, holistic supplements and apparel. Her apparel, some for infants, all have anti-vax or Christian rhetoric.
She does have a disclaimer at the bottom of her site stating, "This website is for informational purposes only. We do not treat, cure, diagnose or otherwise help ailments." Her blog is not currently active, as there is a Blogger notice saying it is under review due to possible "service violations."
Tenpenny's 30-day deadline has passed, but it is unclear whether she responded.
"We don't want incompetent physicians continuing to practice," Hoffman said. "We don't want people who are violating ethical codes or legal codes to continue to practice without any consequences."
Dr. Liston gave a statement about the medical board's action.
"I am glad to see the state medical board is investigating this known charlatan," Liston said. "I remain appalled that the Republicans invited her to the statehouse to spread her dangerous conspiracy theories and lie to the people of Ohio about vaccine safety.”
News 5 reached out to her and her team, but did not hear back until after the piece aired.
"Pursuant to your inquiry, Renz Law, on behalf of Dr. Tenpenny, denies the allegations contained in the September 14, 2022 Formal Action Report," the law firm said in a press release to News 5. "We look forward to resolving this matter in the requested hearing and are strongly considering follow-up actions."