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Dr. Phil's Lawyer Responds After Employees Raise Allegations Of Racism And Toxic Work Environment

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(Image credit: CBS Media Ventures)

While many fans likely see Phil McGraw and the work he’s been doing on his talk show, Dr. Phil, for the past 20 seasons as the committed forum on mental health that it has claimed to be, several of the show’s past and current employees have now alleged that their own mental health was negatively impacted by working for the program. With those claims now out in the open, though, McGraw’s lawyer has spoken out against those reports of racism and a toxic work environment.

What Did Phil McGraw’s Attorney Say About Claims Of A Toxic Work Environment On Dr. Phil?

Now that a dozen of current and former employees from Dr. Phil have come forward and spoken to BuzzFeed about allegations that the show is a toxic workplace (similar to what happened with The Ellen DeGeneres Show in 2020), McGraw’s personal attorney, Patrick Morris, has responded to the claims in a statement to Variety. Morris denied the allegations, and said:

It is a clickbait story, because as everyone knows, Dr. Phil sells tickets. BuzzFeed was offered dozens of current and former staff members to talk to but when BuzzFeed started hearing the truth, which ruined their salacious narrative, they declined. Dr. Phil focuses on content for the program and doesn’t get involved in staff relations, but the staff at the program in no way uses ethnic origin such as described.

What Are The Allegations Against Dr. Phil?

It was just on February 10 that BuzzFeed posted accounts from 12 people (who all elected to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation) who had worked, or currently do work, for Dr. Phil, which noted that those who run the show supposedly use “verbal abuse in a workplace that fosters fear, intimidation, and racism.” Eleven of those interviewed said that “their own mental health was damaged and disrupted at the expense of working for Phil McGraw.” 

While none of the employees interviewed saw McGraw (who also had the CBS drama he helped create, Bull, be investigated for comparable allegations) personally engage in the alleged abusive behavior or believe that he saw any of it, 10 past and two current workers asserted that employees are frequently “screamed at and berated by” the show’s executive producer, Carla Pennington, as well as others in senior staff positions.

In addition, two of those who spoke out claim that they experienced racism behind the scenes, while seven employees indicated that they were, supposedly, even pushed to make sure that racist stereotypes were maintained on screen. Seven of those who talked to the outlet also reported that guests (who are regularly on the show when they’re already at risk in some way) are “manipulated and treated unethically” (a claim that’s been made before), with one former employee offering this account of how they were allegedly instructed to handle one guest with mental health issues:

We were specifically instructed, ‘Make sure that she doesn't take her medication before she goes onstage,’ because they wanted her to look unstable and quote-unquote, ‘crazy,’ for lack of a better term. She did take the medication because no one got there in time and I remember thinking, ‘My God, I don't want to be the one to tell them or dissuade them from that.’ And that's all for the sake of TV. Obviously this girl should be on her medication and that's what we're trying to get her help for, but for the sake of TV they wanted her to look off the rails.

What Do Those Behind The Dr. Phil Show Have To Say?

McGraw’s attorney (as well as the lawyer for Carla Pennington) had denied all of the claims to BuzzFeed by the time the report went live, but a spokesperson from Dr. Phil also issued a statement, which says, in part:

BuzzFeed’s ‘click-bait story’ containing verifiably and objectively false characterizations and reporting of the publicly available contradictory results of these legal cases [including dismissal with prejudice due to a lack of merit, not even being a party and other factual errors] raises significant doubts about the credibility of the other unsubstantiated, anonymous claims relating to the show and its staff, which are not true…Dr. Phil and our hard-working, diverse team of more than 200 proud staff, many of whom have been here for two decades, have sincerely and respectfully worked with thousands of appreciative guests. From the beginning, show executives have strived to create a collaborative, safe, and open environment for Dr. Phil McGraw and all staff and guests.

Even though McGraw and CBS were hit with a lawsuit in October because of a teen guest of the show alleging she was sexually assaulted at a treatment facility the show recommended, we don’t know right now if any of these new reports will lead to an investigation of Dr. Phil behind the scenes, or any legal action being taken. It’s clear that Phil McGraw denies that any wrongdoing has occurred, so time will tell what comes from these new claims. 

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