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House Speaker Calls False Information Given In Testimony Before Committee An "Abberation"

Jo Ingles

The Speaker of the Ohio House says recent false comments made during testimony by an anti-vax doctor is out of the ordinary. And he doesn’t think changes need to be made to fact check speakers in the future or stop their messages from being spread online through the state’s broadcast service. 

Recent testimony given in the Ohio Legislature on a bill that would prevent employers from requiring COVID-19 vaccines is attracting a lot of attention from national news sources and late night comedians. And it has left some wondering whether people who espouse beliefss not based in fact should be allowed to make those comments in a venue that can reach large swaths of the public.

Cleveland anti-vax Dr. Sherri Tenpenny testified for HB 248 recently. That bill would ban employers and schools from requiring vaccinations, not just for COVID-19 but for other diseases as well. Tenpenny falsely claimed people who have been vaccinated for COVID-19 could be magnetized.

"You can put a key on their forehead. It sticks. You can put spoons and forks all over them and they stick," Tenpenny testified.

Tenpenny wasn't the only person who spread such falsehoods while testifying. Joanna Overholt, a registered nurse from Strongsville, defended Tenpenny's testimony. She placed a key against her chest and neck and said, "Explain to me why the key sticks to me. It sticks to my neck too. So, yeah, if somebody could explain this, that would be great." 

Democratic State Rep. Michele Lapore-Hagan (D-Youngstown) says public testimony should be encouraged. But she worries about misinformation being given through the committee broadcasts. "When we allow that sort of crazy fringe to have a platform, it just encourages people to believe in falsehoods," she says.

This isn't the first time false testimony has been given on a bill. Testimony in committee is not fact-checked before it is put out to the public.

Ohio House Speaker Bob Cupp isn’t saying much about the false statements made by Dr. Sherri Tenpenny that COVID vaccines could somehow magnetize people so their keys could stick to their body. And he doesn’t think there’s reason to revisit the process for broadcasting committee meetings online.

“Those kind of things are aberration. Most of the people who come to testify provide very valuable information to the committee as they deliberate on proposed legislation. I think it’s a valuable service to the people of Ohio to be able to tune in and to see that," Cupp says.

National news outlets and late-night comedians have drawn attention to the false testimony given in a House committee hearing recently for a bill that would ban employers from requiring employees to get COVID-19 vaccines.