Inside the Australian and New Zealand book industry

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Belle Gibson’s cancer story questioned prior to cookbook publication

Documents provided to the federal court suggest Penguin was warned about gaps in Belle Gibson’s cancer story prior to the publication of her cookbook The Whole Pantry, reports the Age.

The Age reports that in May 2014 a senior editor emailed the then-publishing director of Lantern, Julie Gibbs, with ‘concerns over the book’s draft spanning Ms Gibson’s personal story, employment and medical history’.

In October 2014, Gibson told Gibbs that a jealous friend had ‘turned on her’. ‘Penguin’s files show Ms Gibbs understood that to mean allegations were being made to the effect that “Gibson had fabricated part or all of her illness”,’ reports the Age.

Documents also show that Penguin hired a public relations firm a week after the 2014 launch of The Whole Pantry to draft a crisis plan in the event that Gibson was accused of lying about ‘part or all of her story’.

A video has also been released of Gibson being questioned about her story by Penguin staff prior to the book’s release as part of her media training.

Penguin stopped supplying the cookbook in March 2015 after Gibson admitted that some of her medical history—including claims to have used alternative therapies to survive a life-threatening brain tumour—may be false.

As previously reported by Books+Publishing, in May this year Penguin paid $30,000 to Consumer Affairs Victoria and promised to include a prominent warning notice on any future books making statements about natural therapies as part of an ‘enforcable undertaking’. A Consumer Affairs Victoria report said Penguin had ‘engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct and made false and misleading representations in breach of the Australian Consumer Law’.

A Penguin Random House spokesperson told Books+Publishing the publisher was not commenting on the Belle Gibson case.


Category: Local news