The #StopTenpenny Campaign against anti-vaccination seminars in Australia – Podcast Report

On The Skeptic Zone Podcast #325 {Permalink}, Evidence, Please has a report on the #StopTenpenny campaign against anti-vaccination seminars in Australia by US anti-vaccine campaigner Sherri Tenpenny.

Below are the links I’ve mentioned on the report, plus a transcript below the jump.

Social Media:

#StopTenpenny on Twitter
Stop Sherri Tenpenny from entering Australia Facebook Page

Blog Posts and Facebook Statements:

Reasonable Hank, “2015 anti-vaccine tour of Australia – the Tenpenny caravan of hurt
Diluted Thinking, “Anti-vaccination Seminars in 2015 by Stephanie Messenger
Diluted Thinking, “Healthy Lifestyles Naturally (HLN) – Seminars
Reasonable Hank, “Getting to know Sherri Tenpenny – a guide
Reasonable Hank, “Venues confirm being misled by anti-vaccine Messenger – Tenpenny tour
Stop the Australian (Anti)Vaccination Network, Statement regarding SAVN views and intentions are regarding Tenpenny’s visit

Media Reports:

4th January 2015
The Daily Telegraph, Jane Hansen, “Pro-vaccine lobby fight to stop US anti-vaccination campaigner Sherri Tenpenny lecturing in Australia

5th January 2015
Mamamia, Amy Stockwell, “This woman is a danger to children. And she’s coming to Australia.
The Daily Mail, Louise Cheer, “Should this woman be allowed to preach her anti-vaccine warnings in Australia? Parents’ outrage over American doctor’s child health seminars, Jane Hansen, “Uproar as US anti-vaccination campaigner Sherri Tenpenny announces trip to Australia
The Guardian, Michael Safi, “US anti-vaccine activist Dr Sherri Tenpenny plans Australian tour in March
The 7:30 Report, Jane Cowan, “Anti-vaccination lobby to blame for US return of preventable diseases say doctors” (video)

6th January 2015
3AW Radio, “Victorian Health Minister slams anti-vaccine movement
SBS, Shanthi Benjamin, “Calls for government to deny visa to US anti-vaccine activist
The Age, “Vaccine row about to boil over
Sunshine Coast Daily, Adam Davies, “Push to ban anti-vaccination campaigner from Aussie tour
ABC PM Radio, Bridget Brennan, “Controversial anti-vaccination campaigner to visit Australia
The Project TV, “Ms Information – the campaign against an anti-vaccination campaigner who plans a speaking tour in Australia

Times Live, Katharine Child, “No vaccine for Mandela-itis
The Age, Julia Medew, “Doctors want to bar anti-vaccination campaigner
ABC, Bridget Brennan, “Calls to deny visa to American anti-vaccination campaigner Sherri Tenpenny to speak in Australia
Junkee, Meg Watson, “Why You Should Join The Campaign To Stop Anti-Vaxxer Sherri Tenpenny Coming To Australia
Health of Ukraine, “Scandal in Australia : the inhabitants of the country are outraged at lectures about the dangers of vaccines” (in Russian)
Herald Sun, Phillipa Butt, “Health Minister urges organisers to cancel event featuring anti-vaccination activist Sherry Tenpenny
The Age, Nick Galvin, “ABC’s 7.30 under fire over anti-vaccination campaigner James Maskell

7th January 2015

New Zealand Herald, Daily Mail, “‘Deny her a visa’ – Australian outrage over anti-vaccination activist’s speaking tour
Queensland Health, Dr Sonya Bennett, “Queensland Health’s response to anti-vaccination discussions
The Guardian, Weekly Beast, “7:30 falls into vax wars
ABC News, “Sherri Tenpenny: Who is the controversial anti-vaccination campaigner planning to visit Australia?

ABC News, “Sherri Tenpenny: Sydney venue cancels seminar of US anti-vaccination campaigner” (Republished on Mamamia)
SBS News, “A controversial American anti-vaccination campaigner may be prevented from entering Australia.
ABC News , “Sydney venue cancels seminar of US anti-vaccination campaigner

8th January 2015

The Age, Eryk Bagshaw, “Sherri Tenpenny: US anti-vaccination campaigner’s Sydney and Melbourne shows cancelled
Sydney Morning Herald, Julia Medew, “Venues cancel events featuring US anti-vaccination campaigner Sherri Tenpenny
Medical Observer, “Doctors protest anti-vax speaking tour” (Login required)
3AW Radio, “Talking Health –  Sally Cockburn interviews Meryl Dorey and John Cunningham” (audio only)

9th January 2014

The Daily Mail, “More venues cancel anti-vax seminars
The Today Show, “Prof Peter McIntyre refutes Dr Tenpenny anti-vaccination beliefs” (video)

The Today Show, ‘The Grill’, “Misinformation tour by anti-vaccination activist” (video)
The Guardian, Oliver Milman, “Anti-vaccination campaigner compares critics to Charlie Hebdo attackers

11th January 2015

Sydney Morning Herald, “Anti-vaccination views are misguided – but not illegal
Daily Life, Jacqueline Maley, “Anti-vaccination advocate’s tour in tatters after most venues cancel
Sunrise TV, “Health experts urge parents to vaccinate kids” (video)

Skeptical Coverage:

Doubtful News, “Tenpenny’s anti-vaccination tour hits a snag in Australia (Update)
Society for Science Based Medicine, “They Do Not Shrug Down Under

Petitions:, “Petition to Refuse Sherri Tenpenny’s Visa into Australia
The Parenthood, “Petition to STOP anti-vax. campaigner Sherri Tenpenny #StopTenpenny

Event Links:

EventBrite Event Listing and Ticket Sales
GanKinMan Foundation
GanKinMan Foundation FB Page
Birth, Baby and Beyond FB Event


Report transcript:

The Skeptic Zone #325 – Evidence, Please

Stop Tenpenny Campaign

Hello, this is Jo Alabaster

*five second pause* (yes, I actually type this in every week!)

Well! It’s been a huge week here for Australian skeptics and supporters of evidence based medicine, with the recent announcement that Sherri Tenpenny, American anti-vaccination campaigner, is planning a tour of Australia in which she has been booked to speak at several parenting seminars and dinners.

The news was broken by our blogger friend Reasonable Hank on the 29th of December, with his post, “2015 anti-vaccine tour of Australia – the Tenpenny caravan of hurt”. Hank let us know that the “GanKinMan Foundation” and “Get Rid of SIDS Project, Inc” are selling tickets to seminars called “Birth, Baby and Beyond”, a full day event in which Tenpenny is to be joined by others, including homeopath Isaac Golden, and “Raising Healthy Children, Naturally”, a three hour presentation by Tenpenny. Additionally, tickets are available for a series of special dinner events, featuring a talk by Tenpenny, music and “special guests”.

Advocacy groups and concerned individuals, including grassroots lobbyists Stop the Australian Vaccination Network, The Parenthood and various associations of medical and public health practitioners responded to this news with a firm message that Sherri Tenpenny and the anti-vaccination movement are spreading dangerous misinformation and present a threat to children and communities.

Within days, a social media campaign, operating on Twitter under the hashtag #StopTenpenny had formed, spreading the word that an anti-vaccinationist was set to tour Australia. Individuals contacted venues via Facebook, Twitter, email and phone to ensure that they realised who it was that they were booked to host. Several online petitions were set up, some directed at the venues requesting that they cancel their bookings and not facilitate the spread of anti-vaccine misinformation, others directed at the Minister for Immigration, Peter Dutton MP, to request that he reconsider allowing Sherri Tenpenny into the country, following the recent deportation of Pick Up Artist speaker Julian Blanc. Others contacted Peter Dutton asking him to check whether Tenpenny’s visa allowed her to conduct paid speaking engagements.

The two approaches, contacting the venues and contacting the Minister for Immigration, merged under the Stop Tenpenny campaign – and I think that it’s important to note that while not everybody agrees on the same approach to halting Tenpenny’s speaking engagements in Australia, we are all united in our desire to stop anti-vaccination misinformation spreading and endangering children whose parents may choose to forego vaccination, and the wider community as a result.

The campaign to Stop Tenpenny began to attract some attention. A week ago, on Sunday the fourth of January, an article by Jane Hansen ran in the Daily Telegraph, titled “Pro-vaccine lobby fight to stop US anti-vaccination campaigner Sherri Tenpenny lecturing in Australia”.

On Monday the fifth of January, more articles discussing the campaign appeared on Mamamia, The Daily Mail, and in The Guardian, and the ABC’s flagship current affairs program The 7:30 Report ran a feature on the American anti-vaccination movement featuring an interview with Dr Paul Offit, paediatrician specializing in infectious diseases, which mentioned Tenpenny’s planned tour of Australia.

The Stop Tenpenny campaign gained speed rapidly – by Tuesday, twelve more items of media coverage were published… and I’m going to have to stop mentioning each of them at this point, because as this report goes to air, by my count, there are thirty seven articles, radio pieces and reports in the media about the response to Tenpenny’s proposed tour of Australia. I’ll upload a list of links to news items to my blog at, along with a transcript of this report – and I’d like to give huge kudos again at this point to blogger Reasonable Hank, who has also been keeping a running list of news items, which I’ve checked against my own running database to ensure I haven’t missed any.

One notable item of Tuesday’s media coverage however, was a segment that ran on The Project, Network Ten’s panel discussing current affairs. The media have been contacting some of the spokespeople involved with “Stop the Australian Vaccination Network” for comment on Tenpenny’s tour; and in order to encourage journalists not to contribute to false balance in the media, many of the Stop the AVN spokespeople refuse to appear on television or radio when an anti-vaccination campaigner has also been invited to take part in the discussion. This approach has been largely successful, with less air time given to anti-vaccinationists.

It was noticed by Twitter users however, that one of the producers from The Project had contacted the former president of the Australian Vaccination-Skeptics Network, Meryl Dorey, earlier in the day in a public post on Twitter. As such, people responded on Twitter, letting the producer know about the dangers of false balance on the issue of vaccination.

When vaccination advocate Dr Rachael Dunlop, who had been approached by The Project for an interview, learned that Meryl Dorey had also been invited onto the show for an interview, she withdrew her offer to appear, explaining her position regarding media appearances alongside anti-vaccinationists. Admirably, the producers took her stance on board; when The Project went to air on Tuesday evening, there were no sound bites from Meryl Dorey, nor any other anti-vaccination campaigner. The Project did speak with Jamila Risvi, Editor-in-Chief of Mamamia and Dr Rachael Dunlop, then had our friend Alison Gaylard from the Northern Rivers Vaccination Supporters take part in the panel discussion live from her home in Mullumbimby! Here’s the audio of The Project’s segment:

*** audio from The Project here ***

I find it incredibly heartening that the media seem to be very much on board with promoting an evidence-based approach to the topic of vaccination, possibly giving up a little sensationalism along the way.

On Wednesday, one radio station did air a live interview with a prominent Australian anti-vaccination campaigner, but promptly removed it from their website when it was brought to their attention that said anti-vaccinationist made statements which were provably false.

On Thursday, another radio station – 3AW – decided to interview Meryl Dorey. Now this interview actually got some media coverage of its own, there’s an article in The Guardian written by Oliver Milman titled, “Anti-vaccination campaigner compares critics to Charlie Hebdo attackers”.

Yes, really!

Meanwhile, other news was unfolding. Late Wednesday, the first reports began to go public that venues who had been booked to host events featuring Sherri Tenpenny were cancelling their bookings.

Kareela Golf and Social Club in Sydney announced that they were not going to host Sherri Tenpenny’s event, stating that they did not wish to be associated with such controversial subject matter.

Dennis Skinner, manager of Kareela Golf and Social Club said that there was no indication it was an anti-vaccination booking when it was made.

“You know it was booked as a health and wellbeing seminar for a ‘get rid of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome)’ project”

Indeed, it seems that the bookings made by the “GanKinMan Foundation” and “Get Rid of SIDS Project, Inc” were not open about the nature of the information to be presented at the events. As this report goes to air, five of the seven venues who had been booked to host seminars and dinners have canceled their bookings. Public statements from the venues are collected on Reasonable Hank’s blog in a post titled, “Venues confirm being misled by anti-vaccine Messenger – Tenpenny tour”.

Messenger? While the “GanKinMan Foundation” and “Get Rid of SIDS Project” websites don’t have any names published to let the public know who is behind them – indeed, I haven’t been able to find any evidence that the “GanKinMan Foundation” is a registered organisation at all, several media reports have revealed that the Tenpenny tour is being organised by Stephanie Messenger, author of the anti-vaccination book for children, “Melanie’s Marvellous Measles”. Further, money for tickets purchased via Eventbrite is paid directly into a PayPal account held by Stephanie Messenger.

With so many venues cancelling, there is uncertainty as to whether the Tenpenny tour will go ahead.

There have been no statements made on the GanKinMan Foundation’s website or Facebook page since venues began to cancel, nor on the Birth, Baby and Beyond Facebook event page. No emails have been sent to ticket holders. The only statements I have been able to find are on the ticket sales site, hosted by Eventbrite – on the pages of the canceled events, under “Venue”:

“Venue to be decided – Please book your ticket and you will be notified in due course of the venue. The venue has withdrawn our booking due to bullying by some denying you the right to informed consent. See more in the Events Details on the left.”

And in the Events Details section:


The venue has cancelled the booking due to bullying by vested interests who do not believe in informed consent, free speech and respect for other’s rights, and who appear to support censorship of thought and science.

A new venue is being sought now so please book your ticket.

You will be notified of the new venue in due time.

          Thank You.”

There has been a lot of talk about free speech and censorship during the Stop Tenpenny campaign – from the anti-vaccinationists, among supporters of the Stop Tenpenny campaign, and from one of the two venues who are still booked to host Tenpenny events. I would like to finish off today with a statement from the Stop the Australian Vaccination Network admins, published today, the 11th of January.

“There seems to have been some misunderstanding of what our views and intentions are regarding Tenpenny’s visit. This misunderstanding has been further confused in the media by the implication of SAVN in creating the petitions regarding Tenpenny, when in fact it has been SAVN supporters.

The shifting of the debate to free speech and visas is getting away from the point. This is all about Aussies not wanting cranks to come here spreading lies that kill kids, and if she comes anyway, to limit the damage she causes. Just like we have prevented other people of poor character from coming here to speak, Tenpenny is not ‘being gagged’; she will continue to sprout her delusions from all the forums available to her, just as before. Australia is not obligated to provide her an additional one.

Some would have us challenge Tenpenny with facts. The fact is that the evidence for the safety and efficacy of vaccination is overwhelming and obvious to all sensible people. We don’t need to debate the obvious, and anti-vaccine activists use public debate as a platform for spreading and legitimising their lies, misinformation and medical conspiracy theories

Crying freedom of speech is also a classic antivax strategy to deflect criticism of their misinformation, pseudoscience and lies. It is a well-worn tactic of the AVsN and their Public Officer. The message, or ‘speech’ of the AVN has already been limited by the HCCC warning. Why is Tenpenny’s message, which is exactly the same as the AVsN, any different?

Free speech protects us from persecution and punishment but not criticism. It does not guarantee a platform anywhere you like. In democracies you have the right to speak, you don’t have the right to be heard. Free speech also extends to venues having the right to say ‘no’ to Dr Tenpenny.

We support free speech but we also support the right to publicly criticise and counter people who want to spread fear, hysteria and misinformation.

– SAVN Admins”

Again, all links mentioned in this report and a transcript can be found on my blog at

The Skeptic Zone will have an update when more news comes to hand on Tenpenny’s tour of Australia. Until then, I would like to acknowledge the tireless work of many vaccination advocates, including the spokespeople for Stop the AVN, the bloggers, those who’ve kept an eye out for reports and captured audio and video, everyone who’s taken the time to engage with the media, the venues and on social media with the general public. This has been an amazingly successful campaign so far and is once again showing that we can effectively band together and make a stand for evidence based medicine and the health of Australian kids.




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s