Dr. Phil McGraw prides himself and his show, Dr. Phil, on at least appearing to help its subjects and audiences. However, according to some — including some of his former employees and guests — McGraw actually does more harm than good. Here’s the shady side of Dr. Phil McGraw and his TV series.
He’s been accused of plying addicted guests with substances
In December 2017, several former guests who appeared on Dr. Phil to get help for drug and alcohol abuse accused McGraw and his staff of providing them with the very substances with which they struggled.
Todd Herzog, who appeared on the show several times, told STAT and The Boston Globe that when he was a guest in 2013, he was so drunk that he had to be lifted onto the stage in a chair. He claims he found a bottle of vodka in his dressing room, and that a show staffer gave him a Xanax to help him relax.
Herzog wasn’t alone in his accusation. Two other guests who previously appeared on the show for help treating their respective heroin addictions claimed staff provided them with drugs, though in one instance, it was to prevent a potentially lethal withdrawal.
Martin Greenberg, a psychologist and the show’s director of professional affairs, said the allegations are “absolutely, unequivocally untrue.” He added, “Addicts are notorious for lying, deflecting and trivializing. But if they are at risk when they arrive, then they were at risk before they arrived. The only change is they are one step closer to getting help, typically help they could not have even come close to affording.”
He’s accused of plugging rehab centers on his show
STAT and The Boston Globe reported that on addiction segments of Dr. Phil, the show often sends its subjects to Origins Behavioral Healthcare Center, which was founded by McGraw’s graduate school mentor, Frank Lawlis. A show rep insisted no money is exchanged for the patients’ visits and the exposure the center receives from show, but the report also claimed rehabilitation centers that purchased Dr. Phil’s Path to Recovery system are promoted on the show and on The Doctors, another show produced by McGraw and his son, Jay.
He was sued for allegedly berating his employees
A former Dr. Phil employee named Leah Rothman sued McGraw and the show, claiming she was forced to quit, suffered “emotional distress” and wrongful constructive termination, and was falsely imprisoned.
In court documents obtained by Radar Online, Rothman, who worked on the show from 2003 to 2015, said that shortly before she quit, “approximately 300 individuals who worked on the Dr. Phil Show were summoned into a single room, where security officers were also present. Dr. Phil entered the room and demanded that the doors to the room be locked, forcing all of his employees present, to be enclosed in a room with no way out… Dr. Phil yelled at the employees present at the meeting…alleging that one of them had leaked internal information to the press. Dr. Phil informed those present that he had contacted the ‘Feds’ because the information that was transmitted was done over state lines.”
The suit continues, “During the meeting, Dr. Phil was yelling at Ms. Rothman and her colleagues, slamming items down and threatened [sic] whoever leaked the story. Specifically, he stated, ‘If you f**k with me, I’ll f**k with you,’ continuously using profanity toward the employees throughout the meeting.”
Rothman claimed that she went to human resources after the incident but received no assistance, forcing her to leave the show and her job behind.
His efforts to ‘help’ Nicholas Brendon failed
When troubled Buffy the Vampire Slayer star Nicholas Brendon appeared on Dr. Phil in August 2015, it didn’t end well. Brendon, who’d been struggling with alcohol abuse and depression, walked off the show’s set after feeling ambushed by McGraw.
“My illnesses and addictions are a daily struggle for me, and I am committed to working on them for the rest of my life,” Brendon wrote on Facebook after the incident. “A big part of that is focusing on positivity. I’m the first to admit I’ve messed up, a lot, and I’ve hurt people I care about and who care about me… When I was in that seat, I felt that Dr. Phil went for the jugular, talking about some of my recent mistakes, with no build up.” The actor continued, “I felt that he wanted me to lay the darkest parts of myself on national TV right from the start, and I’m not willing to do that.”
Despite the walk-off, Dr. Phil stated that the show would keep the door open for Brendon, and he returned for a tearful appearance in late November 2015. Unfortunately, Brendon’s demons weren’t completely exorcised: People reported that in October 2017, he was arrested for allegedly attacking his girlfriend in a Florida hotel room.
He may have paid Dina Lohan for her disastrous interview
In September 2012, Lindsay Lohan’s mother, Dina, sat down on Dr. Phil and gave an interview that went so poorly that it went viral for all the wrong reasons.
Dina’s responses seemed alternately rehearsed and off the wall to the point that McGraw himself grew annoyed, asking if she was under the influence of any substances. She denied that she was drunk in a subsequent interview with TMZ, but the drama didn’t end there. Dina’s ex and Lindsay’s father, Michael, lashed out, claiming Dina was paid big bucks for the segment.
“I got absolutely nothing [for my appearance],” Michael told Radar Online. “It’s the first question Dr. Phil asked me but they cut that out. Dina did get $50,000 and that’s why they were p**sed that she didn’t give them the interview they wanted.”
Michael may have a point. During the interview with Dina, an exasperated McGraw says, “Can I ask you some questions, and you answer them, not in television speak but just answer them honestly?” McGraw adds, “What you have done is distinguished yourself in the negative, you have come on here and been phony and inauthentic.”
He was accused of giving Casey Anthony money
In 2011, McGraw interviewed Casey Anthony’s parents, George and Cindy, about Casey’s murder trial. People reported at the time that McGraw’s production company paid Cindy and George’s controversial charity, Caylee’s Fund, $600,000 for the appearance, but The Orlando Sentinel reported that much of the cash actually went to Casey, who was acquitted of the murder of her daughter, Caylee.
Following the trial, Casey remained a hated figure in America. If the cash first went to Cindy, then to Casey, it means McGraw didn’t actually pay Casey himself.
He was accused of mocking Caitlyn Jenner
McGraw appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live in April 2015, where he mocked Bruce Jenner’s transition into Caitlyn, telling the host, “It would be boring to talk to me about that I…would just say, ‘Look, if it’s what you want to do, do it. I mean, what the hell does it matter what anybody else thinks?’ That’d be the first 30 seconds, and then I guess we’d spend the next hour and 59 minutes saying, ‘You’re almost 80, what’s the point? This is a theoretical exercise, right?’ I mean, he’s kind of, like past his prime, right?”
The comments, which, to be fair, were made (mostly) in jest, attracted backlash from other therapists, which prompted McGraw to make a statement clarifying his stance. He told People, “Bruce and I have known each other casually for a while and we’re around the same age. I’ve said long and loud it’s never too late to make a life change, and I’m personally cheering him on. I’m glad he’s decided to set himself free in order to live his life authentically. It’s his life and his body and his decision — more power to him.”
He beefed with Dr. Oz
An insider dished that McGraw actually has a bit of an issue with another Oprah Winfrey-launched famous doc: Dr. Oz. Oz reportedly tried to teach McGraw how to meditate, and that didn’t work out too well for either of them.
A source told Radar Online, “Dr. Oz and Dr. Phil met recently and Oz gave him some friendly advice about coping with stress. Oz said that transcendental meditation helps him deal with his grueling work schedule and his health has benefited from it, so Phil should try it for himself. Oz even offered to help Phil through the process, they exchanged numbers, and he told Phil to call him up whenever he needed help.”
“Open to the idea, Phil began to try meditating,” the source continued. “The problem was, he couldn’t shut his mind off, and he was constantly agitated and checking his phone all the time. Phil told Oz the difficulty he was having with switching off, so Oz offered Phil a few solutions. He told Phil to leave his phone in the other room and turn the device off. He even gave him some CDs that featured the calming sounds of ocean waves to help him clear his mind. This just drove Phil crazy and he quit less than a month later.”
He’s litigious about his marriage
McGraw and his wife, Robin, appear to be madly in love — they hold hands at the end of every episode of Dr. Phil. However, the National Enquirer reported that there has been trouble in paradise since their first year of marriage, when accusations emerged that Phil allegedly sexually abused a 19-year-old female patient. The tabloid claimed Robin and Phil have had a “divorce deal” in place for years, and that Robin threatened to write a tell-all about her husband and his practices.
McGraw has denied having a romantic relationship with the patient. The Texas State Board of Examiners of Psychologists reported that McGraw only gave the patient in question a job in his office, which constituted an “inappropriate dual relationship” with a client.
According to the Daily Mail, McGraw sued the National Enquirer and its parent publishing company, AMI Media, for $250 million. McGraw told the Daily Mail, “Enough is enough, it’s time for them to own up. As a member of the media, I have a deep respect for the First Amendment. But it does not protect these people who knowingly print lies for money, particularly lies about my wife.”
He was accused of exploiting Shelley Duvall
In November 2016, The Shining (1980) star Shelley Duvall appeared on Dr. Phil for a sit-down with McGraw. During the segment, it was obvious Duvall was suffering from some sort of mental problem. In her interview, she described seeing actor Robin Williams, who committed suicide in 2014, and she claimed Williams was a shapeshifter. She also said she had a “worrying disc” inside her and that the “Sheriff of Nottingham” was threatening her. At the conclusion of the episode, McGraw claimed Duvall refused treatment but that he and producers were working with professionals near her home to ensure she was getting proper care.
The interview prompted boycotts from Vivian Kubrick, daughter of The Shining director Stanley Kubrick, as well as journalist Ronan Farrow.
Kubrick tweeted, “You are putting Shelley Duvall ‘on show’ while she is suffering from a pitiable state of ill health. Unquestionably, this is purely a form of lurid and exploitive entertainment — it’s appallingly cruel. Shelley Duvall was a movie star…whatever dignity a mere unfortunate creature might have in this world is denied by your displaying her in this way. I recoil in complete disgust. I hope others will join me in boycotting your utterly heartless form of entertainment, because it has nothing to do with compassionate healing. Sincerely disgusted, Vivian.”
Farrow wrote, “Don’t support the exploitation of vulnerable people. Don’t watch Dr. Phil.”
He was accused of betraying Britney Spears
In January 2008, pop star Britney Spears was hospitalized after having a meltdown in front of her sons. While she was undergoing treatment at Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles, McGraw, who’d been in touch with her parents, asked to visit her as a personal favor to the Spears family.
After the visit, McGraw issued a public statement about her condition to Entertainment Tonight (via TMZ), telling press: “My meeting with Britney and some of her family members this morning in her room at Cedars leaves me convinced more than ever that she is in dire need of both medical and psychological intervention. She was released moments before my arrival and was packing when I entered the room. We visited for about an hour before I walked with her to her car. I am very concerned for her.”
A rep for the Spears family slammed McGraw after the incident, telling Today, “What’s wrong with Dr. Phil’s statement is that he made a statement. The family basically extended an invitation of trust as a resource to support them, not to make a public statement. Any public statements he made, because he was brought in under this cloak of trust, are just inappropriate.”
He apologized to Spears only after he was shamed
Initially, McGraw wasn’t sorry at all for spilling the beans on Spears’ condition, telling Entertainment Tonight (via Today), “Somebody needs to step up and provide a vector to get this young woman into some quality care… I do not apologize one whit, not one second.”
However, weeks later, when he realized how bad he looked in the press, he admitted on air (via MTV News), “Was it helpful to the situation? Regrettably, no. It was not, and I have to acknowledge that, and I do. I definitely think if I had it to do over again, I probably wouldn’t make any statement at all. Period.” He also adamantly denied using the Spears meeting for promotional gain.
He unleashed the ‘Cash me outside’ girl on the world
In September 2016, a Dr. Phil episode called “I Want To Give Up My Car-Stealing, Knife-Wielding, Twerking 13-Year-Old Daughter Who Tried To Frame Me For A Crime” aired, and Danielle Bregoli Peskowitz became an almost instant meme for her refrain of “cash me outside, howboh dah?” Since then, Bregoli’s criminal record has grown, yet she also launched a merchandise line and paid off her mom’s mortgage.