Just a few days after Psychic Cancer Healer, Adrian Pengelly, appeared on the BBC consumer affairs programme, Watchdog, he was the subject of a particularly glowing report in the Daily Mail.
Pengelly had been accused of giving dangerous suggestions to people with cancer. Not only did he say on film that he had a 60-65% success rate with his healing hands, he also said that the chances were better if you were not on chemotherapy. Clearly, this is a deeply disturbing situation where some people may be vulnerable to believing in supernatural cancer claims and giving up on their few options for a cure.
The Mail ran with the headline, “Can this man cure cancer with his bare hands?”
The BBC’s Watchdog says he’s a menace. But when one of our most cynical writers met Britain’s most controversial healer, her scepticism began to waver.
What followed was not a cynical look at this man, and not even a sceptical look, but a pretty credulous puff story for Mr Pengelly. Lots of space was given to repeat Pengelly’s claims. He said, “For me the proof of the pudding is people recover when they come and see me. I don’t care about scientific evidence.” After measuring the reporters ‘energy’, he tells Rebecca Hardy, “I feel with your energy, whatever you do – you could probably drink and smoke 40-a-day – you’re likely to live to be old. That’s how your energy feels.’
Rather good advice.
Then after telling Ms Hardy that she had “emotional trauma, a shock, an energy you’ve held on to”, he offers her an ‘energy blast’. Despite Rebecca Hardy’s ‘cynicism’, she equates this ‘blockage’ to the death of her son’s father and says, “Ever since he gave that ‘blast’ to my liver, I have felt an overwhelming sense of release.“
How did this well timed story come about so soon after this very critical BBC exposé?
Well, as I discussed last week, Adrian Pengelly likes to consult his lawyers. This time his lawyers appeared to have advised him to “call in the services of a PR agency and recommended crisis and reputation management specialists”. Adrian may not have magic hands, but a little PR wizardry may be very beneficial.
In comes such a specialist, PHA Media. They set to work. Apparently, they have “intuitive knowledge of the media with [a] second to none contacts book to provide the very best strategic and proactive assistance for any individual or company facing a crisis.”
PHA Media quickly arranged for Pengelly to be interviewed by freelancer Rebecca Hardy for the Daily Mail and she,
had a one-to-one session with Adrian and spoke to several happy patients who categorically refuted the claims made by Matt Allwright, the Watchdog presenter who described Adrian as ‘dangerous’.
Adrian Pengelly has been delighted,
PHA Media then arranged for me to be interviewed by the Daily Mail, who carried a fantastic and hugely supportive page lead on me. Since then I have received a staggering 5,000 emails in support of me, attacking the BBC programme and all urging me to carry on my good work.
Now I have been bombarded with interview requests – even from Spain’s biggest radio station, and the editor of a major UK magazine has asked me if I could help heal her.
Now, call me cynical, but would PHA media be describing this as “a joy to work with Adrian and to turn this crisis situation in to wonderfully positive PR” if someone had actually died because of his style of ‘healing’?
There are serious concerns about Adrian’s chosen work. He clearly wishes to work with seriously ill people and looks like he offers advice which is not in their best medical interest. As I have described, Adrian does appear to be sincere in what he is doing, but he also appears to be very badly mistaken.
The media love this sort of story. And for the Mail it also offers a chance to bash their enemy, the BBC.
But the media is a deeply cynical business that often does not show any regard for the consequences of their actions. The reporter here, Rebecca Hardy, appears to be no stranger to cynicism as she was involved in a libel case against the Daily Mail where she was accused of writing a story to pursue her own ‘personal vendetta’ against the subject of the story.
According to the Guardian,
Hardy “used and shamelessly abused” DJ Harriet Scott during an interview so she could write up the article as an attack on Mr Hollingsworth, a jury in a high court libel trial heard.
The Mail lost the case and had to pay damages to Hollingsworth.
Newspapers are a mucky business. Perhaps the cynicism is best displayed in the last paragraph of Hardy’s article on Pengelly,
Perhaps he really does have magic hands. Or maybe it’s just the relief of another deadline met.
It must be good to get the copy in.
Good investigating. Like lifting up a rock and seeing all the creepy crawly slimy things thrashing about underneath…
A Dickie Bird tells me PHA were behind Dore too.
Great research, I wish you wrote for a major news outlet.
Utterly fascinating piece. With the CNHC's use of Mandate Communications, and Pengelly's use of PHA Media, I feel we're starting to lift the lid on Big Quack's lobbying methods for the first time.
I think we really need to work to make the public aware of the fact that alt med are a multi-billion dollar industry employing PR firms, lawyers and lobbyists left and right to try and make money out of people's health problems.
A puzzle inside an enigma wrapped up in a bunch of unscrupulous b____s
What PHA Media's customers are saying:
"I am reluctant to recommend Phil Hall because if he gets too busy to look after us we will never find anyone nearly as good, he's unique in this field"
Wynford Dore, CEO, Dore Centres
"Phil Hall knows how to turn an ordinary story into an extraordinary one because he knows what journalists are looking for"
Lee Horton, Sports Editor, The People
Now who is more cynical, the skeptics or the spin-doctors ?
Depends to some extent on which definition you use, perhaps:
Cynical: 1 believing that people are motivated purely by self-interest. > sceptical. > contemptuous; mocking. 2 (of behaviour or actions) proceeding from a concern only with one's own interests, regardless of accepted standards: a cynical foul.
Source: Concise OED, 11th ed. 2004.
Does employing PR people magically absolve you of criminal acts?
“Hi there, I have seen the watchdog programme (which you have to admit was not professional and just ridiculed Adrian with gimicks, rather than actually giving a weight to both sides of the argument and coming to a balanced conclusion), I’ve read the Worcester News article, which was Adrian’s side of the story and also read a balanced view by an open-minded/skeptic lady from the Daily Mail.”
There are no two sides to this argument. In fact, there is no argument. There’s only one side: the watchdog show, which showed you camera evidence of Pengelly basically saying that veterinarians don’t know anything about horses. And camera evidence of Pengelly suggesting cancer patients shouldn’t do the reccomended chemo treatment.
It’s right there. Undeniably. There is no argument, he really did say and do those things. There’s video-evidence.
The only argument is Pengelly trying to weasel his way out of it.
Interesting. It goes on to show that even the spin doctors who are meant to work behind the scenes get some scrutiny. It exposes the power of PR for good or bad.
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