Sherri Tenpenny, leading 'disinformation dozen' anti-vaxxer, described having COVID-19 symptoms and getting on planes

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  • Dr Sherri Tenpenny, a well-known anti-vaxxer, said she's been traveling with COVID-19 symptoms.

  • She described symptoms consistent with COVID-19 such as fatigue and trouble breathing.

  • Tenpenny did not respond to Insider's requests for clarifications about whether she was diagnosed.

One of the leading proponents of COVID-19 misinformation and conspiracy theories described traveling, and seemingly boarding flights, while experiencing symptoms after "serious COVID exposure."

Dr. Sherri Tenpenny described symptoms matching those of COVID-19, and described struggling to breathe while walking through an airport.

Her description of her illness came in a number of Instagram Live broadcasts in recent weeks.

The CDC says that people should not fly if they were exposed to the virus, are awaiting a test for it, or have symptoms.

Tenpenny, an osteopath with no formal expertise in immunology, became notorious in June when she falsely testified to the Ohio statehouse that the COVID-19 vaccine might make people magnetic.

Sherry Tenpenny
Sherry Tenpenny in the Ohio statehouse in June.The Ohio Channel

As Insider earlier reported, her influence in the world of pandemic misinformation is extensive.

The Center for Countering Digital Hate put her in its "disinformation dozen" — 12 people it said were responsible for spreading a majority of anti-vaxxer falsehoods on Facebook.

Her recent statements suggest she could be spreading the virus too. Tenpenny did not respond to Insider's questions about her statements in the Instagram broadcasts.

Weeks of illness

A composite image of four screenshots of Dr Tenpenny talking to camera on Instagram.
Dr Sherri Tenpenny talks to followers on her Bible study group '@happyhourwithDrT'Dr Sherri Tenpenny/Instagram

Tenpenny broadcasts two times a week to nearly 27,000 followers from the account "@happyhourwithdrt," although on Thursday she posted about a temporary ban. Ostensibly a Bible study and prayer group, the sessions invariably veer into vaccine misinformation.

On several shows, Tenpenny described a period of ill health through the summer and fall. She said it followed what she called "serious COVID exposures."

Tenpenny did not mention taking a test for COVID-19 or receiving any formal diagnosis for her illness, which she said began in late August.

The symptoms she described are consistent with COVID-19: shortness of breath, intense fatigue, diarrhea, and vomiting. She noted she did not have a fever or a cough. She felt unwell until October 2, she said.

In a September 16 Instagram Live she said that when she first started feeling ill "it wasn't like I had COVID, or any of that stuff."

She instead appeared to blame contact with vaccinated people for her illness in an October 7 Instagram Live.

(Vaccinated people can still catch and transmit COVID-19 — but being vaccinated makes them far less likely to do so.)

A disastrous festival

Between August 26 and 29, after she first said she started feeling ill, she told listeners she had been at Bards Fest — a festival in Missouri billed as "an assembly of Patriots coming together to pray with truth."

There, "just about everybody" got sick, she told her listeners on September 16. "They got what we would call conventional COVID," she said.

She said one attendee was hospitalized and died, which Insider was unable to verify.

Tenpenny also described walking through an airport with shortness of breath, as well as other COVID symptoms, around the end of August.

"I was really sick for about three weeks with diarrhea and profound fatigue and even though I powered through it I still wasn't feeling very well," she said on November 2.

"And what was the most difficult part for me was the shortness of breath, that I just felt like I couldn't take in a full deep breath.

"And when I was going through the airport I would have to stop multiple times and kind of catch my breath and just felt this tightness in my chest."

She described the same symptoms, also experienced in an airport, on October 7.

In the September 16 broadcast she described having taken several flights during a time period soon after the festival during which she was still unwell.

She said she treated herself with ivermectin, hydroxychloroquine, vitamins, and colloidal silver — all unproven COVID-19 therapeutics that are popular with anti-vaxxers.

The only thing that cured her, she said, was prayer — a prayer specially formulated to rid the body of the vaccine.

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