Belle Gibson became an online sensation and bestselling author with her recipe book and app, “The Whole Pantry”.
But her claims to be a cancer sufferer who beat the disease through alternative therapies have been exposed as a lie.
After admitting she never had a brain tumour in an exclusive interview with the Australian Women’s Weekly in April, Gibson last night sat down with Channel 9 current affairs show 60 Minutes and reporter Tara Brown to tell her story.
Described by Brown as once a “strikingly sympathetic and inspirational figure to a legion of followers”, and by herself as a “sick, young mum who found her salvation in wholesome foods and natural therapies when conventional medicine failed her”, Gibson went through the interview side-stepping direct and to-the-point questions from Brown.
The full video is here, and below are some of the defining moments from the interview and how Gibson came to believe her own story of deception.
From the outset Gibson agrees to tell the whole truth, saying, “I’ve been really transparent”, but when asked about deceiving her followers, Gibson denies ever profiting from them. “I didn’t trade in my story or in other people’s lives,” she says.
Brown questions her about a 2013 Instagram post in which Gibson said she was treating her “severe and malignant brain cancer” with “natural medicine, Gerson therapy and foods”. She doesn’t miss a beat when replying: “it is [treating it]”.
But not even a minute later she confesses to not ever having brain cancer of any kind: “But when I was writing that I thought that I did,” Gibson explains.
“I’m really sorry,” she says, adding that she beats herself up over it every day. Brown isn’t buying it.
It turns out Gibson based her diagnoses from an “immunologist” who, according to 60 Minutes research, does not exist. She claimed he came to her home and tested her using “a box, a machine with lights on the front”. Gibson believes that the “German technology” measured frequencies in her body which detected the cancer.
After trying to explain why she lied about her diagnosis, given to her by “a doctor” by the name of Mark Johns, in “his office in Perth”, Brown’s persistent questioning finally gets Gibson to admit that she was being misleading.
Her lies about receiving chemotherapy and radiotherapy are also debunked, but she says: “At the time I believed that I was having radiotherapy.”
She claims to have stopped the chemotherapy due to falling pregnant.
“Tara, I’m trying to draw on information…”, she says, before being interrupted by Brown.
“No, no don’t draw on information, just be honest”, Brown says.
Gibson then says she wrote five versions of the introduction to her cook book and the one that was published is a “very brief version of my story”.
Gibson had claimed that in 2009 she had three heart operations, two cardiac arrests, died twice on the operating table, and suffered a stroke and brain tumour. But she didn’t.
“I was supposed to have surgery for that, and I didn’t…,” she says.
Lies about her heart condition, hospital visits and surgery are also discussed. Gibson calls it being “melodramatic”.
“Tara, I have lost everything and I am not here to regain it. When you hit rock bottom there is only an opportunity to be honest and to heal and to apologise and I am here to do that. There is no reason for me to lie, and it’s not something that I want to be doing either.”
As far back as 2010 she says she was having doubts about her brain tumour and her four-month diagnosis, so went to the Alfred hospital in Melbourne for brain scans, which she had provided to 60 Minutes to date. At this point in the interview she starts to blame the producers for not having asked her to share the scans.
It’s at this point Brown has really had enough. “Belle. Belle, please. Either you’re interested in getting to the bottom of this and presenting the facts as they are, the facts, or you’re not.”
Scans later provided to the show reveal Gibson did go to the Alfred for a brain scan in 2011, but only because she thought she had Multiple Sclerosis. More importantly, they revealed she did not have a brain tumour. So she knew two years before “The Whole Pantry” was published.
She denies being mentally ill or having Munchausen syndrome.
When told by a health guru she had a “third and fourth cancer” she says she didn’t think to go to a doctor for a second opinion. Brown suggests she chose to believe she had cancer.
“No body wants live with the fear of a terminal illness and dying,” she says.
Brown asks: “Would you accept that you are a pathological liar?”
For once it is a straightforward answer from Gibson: “No.”
Brown asks Gibson for her definition of the truth.
“Speaking with honesty and with clear definition around fact,” Gibson answers.
Brown then asks: “And what is your definition of a lie?”
“Well, opposite of that”, says Gibson. “I’ve not been intentionally untruthful.”
She admits her reality does not match Brown’s “normal” or even Brown’s “reality”.
Gibson also has trouble explaining what age she really is.
“I’ve always been raised as being currently a 26 year-old… I live knowing, as I’ve always known that I would be 26.”
Brown has to repeat the question another couple of times: “It’s a really simple question, how old are you?”
“I believe that I am 26. I have two birth certificates and I’ve had my name changed four times. The identity crisis there is big but that was my normal when I was growing up,” says Gibson.
“What do you know the truth to be now?,” asks Brown.
“That is probably a question that we’ll have to keep digging for because it is not something that I have ever understood or had answers for,” Gibson admits.
Documents lodged with the corporate regulator when she was setting up a business, however, suggest Gibson is 23.
Gibson misled the Schwarz family, whose son has terminal brain cancer, as well as multiple charities to which she promised to donate up to $300,000.
While Gibson accepts that she “might” have caused some cancer sufferers to walk away from conventional medicine, she still believes that she is the real sufferer.
“I have been going through this Tara since last year, before the media broke it… This has been a really private ordeal for me to know where I stand,” she said.
“There was nothing to get away with… Once I started to figure out where I stood and what reality actually was and I received the definitive ‘no you do not have cancer’, that was something that I had to come to terms with. That takes a lot, it was really traumatising.”
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