Publisher Penguin Random House will investigate the medical claims of author Belle Gibson, after it was revealed the well-known cancer survivor may not have had cancer after all.
Ms Gibson had claimed she suffered from multiple cancers but is now quoted in The Australian newspaper as saying she had a “misdiagnosis”.
The success of Gibson’s book, The Whole Pantry, and her smartphone application has been largely dependent on her high-profile as a cancer survivor, which made her an advocate for natural therapies.
Penguin Random House said it did not have proof Ms Gibson had cancer prior to publishing the book and it was concerned about the questions now being raised.
The news comes on top of allegations promised donations to charities have not been paid by the company she founded, The Whole Pantry.
In a statement published on the company’s Facebook page, The Whole Pantry admitted cash flow problems.
“All remaining promised donations and support will be honoured as soon as the finances are in order,” it said.
But neither Ms Gibson nor The Whole Pantry are registered charity fundraisers, and Consumer Affairs Victoria (CAV) said all organisations raising funds for charity must be registered.
Doubt has been cast over Melbourne social media entrepreneur Belle Gibson’s “inspirational” story of cancer survival, as close friends and doctors question her illness and her publisher admits never checking the story.
It comes as Victoria’s consumer watchdog launches an inquiry into fundraising activities run by Ms Gibson who withheld thousands of dollars in charity proceeds.
Fairfax Media on Monday revealed The Whole Pantry founder failed to hand over proceeds solicited in the name of five charities and had grossly overstated the company’s total donations to different causes.
Now, five people in Ms Gibson’s inner circle – each acknowledged in her new book – have revealed their concerns about the app developer’s life story and cancer claims.
Fairfax Media understands some friends held an “intervention” at Ms Gibson’s beachside apartment in Elwood last last year, questioning her about her illness. “She admitted her diagnosis was questionable,” a former friend said.
“I asked her when she got her diagnosis, she said she didn’t know. I asked her who gave her the diagnosis, she said Dr Phil. I asked if Dr Phil had a last name she didn’t know, he disappeared. I asked her where she saw Dr Phil, she said he came and picked [her] up from [her] house.”
The founder of a popular food app is facing a backlash over unpaid charity proceeds and has been accused of deleting critical comments from the company’s official social media pages.
Fairfax Media on Sunday revealed Melbourne entrepreneur Belle Gibson, founder of The Whole Pantry, failed to hand over money raised through two charity drives in 2013 and 2014. Four of the five charities promoted as beneficiaries had no knowledge of the #fundraising campaigns, which included a function and an online promotion promising to donate app sale proceeds.
Ms Gibson said the company had been unable to pass on money raised due to cashflow problems and had hired external accountants to manage its struggling finances. The Whole Pantry posted a detailed statement to its vast online following on Sunday night in which it said the company’s books were not in order and that it fully intended to make the charitable payments.
“TWP’s new business management and accounts team are working through the workload of bringing the accounts and business up to date and all charities have been openly communicated with and are aware of our intentions to uphold this financial support when the necessary keepings of the business are finalised,” it said.
But the statement sparked a slew of criticism against The Whole Pantry and Ms Gibson. Followers said the company had deleted negative posts from its Facebook page and blocked those who questioned its fundraising activities on social media. Comments casting doubt over Ms Gibson’s story of cancer survival are also believed to have been deleted. The 26-year-old, who has traded heavily off her story as a young mother treating terminal brain cancer with nutrition and a healthy lifestyle, declined to discuss her health.
On the 8th of March 2015, Belle Gibson’s The Whole Pantry released a statement.
This evening The Age – theage.com.au posted an article which we have been communicating with them over for the past couple of days. They contacted Belle, our previous Managing Director, who addressed some incorrect claims and assumptions but they still decided to run with the story without correcting factual errors. Unfortunately the two journalists have been selective with their information, so here we are, updating you with where we are actually at…
We have, like all start ups, struggled with managing all facets of a new business, biting off more than we could chew, juggling internal and external priorities with little staff. We have since passed our overdue business records and accounts over to an external Business Manager and Accounts team, an issue we are reassured arrises often with overwhelmed new businesses. They have been working over our finances for the last five months, and are still proceeding with a resolution in close sight. We were advised by this team to follow their process and allow them to finalise the donations once all business keepings were accounted first and brought forward.
The article presents that 300,000 downloads have been made, assuming that these were all paid purchases. As most are aware, a small percentage of them had been, bringing attention to all the free downloads and promotions we offer in order to make our product and content accessible, our first and foremost priority; accessibility.
TWP, is a for-profit company, but has great, enthusiastic intentions of giving back as much as possible to the organisations and charities which the TWP team and community support, respect and are passionate about. The $20,000 we have allocated towards the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre and $2790 from what The Age refer to as a ‘Mothers Day Campaign’ to Bumi Sehat Foundation (previously intended to be split with 2h Foundation) hasn’t been absorbed by anyone, or TWP, but rather had been accounted for but not processed as per advice.
Though openly discussed with The Age, they chose to leave out donations from a private event we held in December 2013 which were handed over to a family with an unwell child, a family put forward by the online community of The Whole Pantry, and another in 2014. TWP have made private donations to ASRC which have been receipted and the funding for a filtration system to Kinfolk Cafe, a not-for-profit cafe in Melbourne CBD.
Our books are taking longer to bring up to date than anticipated. TWP forecasted income in October 2014 which was not fulfilled, creating cash-flow issues and unforeseen delays on finalising three discussed charitable donations. TWP’s new Business Management and Accounts team are working through the workload of bringing the accounts and business up to date and all charities have been openly communicated with and are aware of our intentions to uphold this financial support when the necessary keepings of the business are finalised.
This is an issue which will be resolved with added business support.
In summary I would like to strongly reiterate that in addition to thousands of dollars already donated or gifted to worthy causes, published and otherwise, all remaining promised donations and support will be honoured as soon as the finances are in order, something which has been privately communicated over with the remaining published organisations.
Moving forward into 2015/16, as soon as we are presented with our Profit and Loss statements, we will endeavour to communicate our two nominated partners from herein via Facebook and The Whole Pantry Website. These relationships and donations will be managed, externally, by those who administer these transactions regularly and fully understand the formal processes.
Corporate media have, in this instance, chosen to omit critical information and publish contradictory statements.
We appreciate your support over the last 18 months and continue to put our community first as we find our footing again.
The Whole Pantry Team.
Hundreds of people commented on this Facebook post, hundreds of comments were deleted as The Whole Pantry went into an uncoordinated and frenzied damage control effort.