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The Dr. Phil show, one of television's leading providers of intellectually bankrupt exploitation, is now at the center of a scandal far more disconcerting than any of its guests. In a joint investigative report from STAT and the Boston Globe published Thursday, Dr. Phil is accused of putting guests' health at risk in its "pursuit of ratings" by providing alcohol and drugs.
"It's a callous and inexcusable exploitation," Dr. Jeff Sugar, an assistant professor of clinical psychiatry at the University of Southern California, said of the allegations found in the report. "These people are barely hanging on. It's like if one of them was drowning and approaching a lifeboat, and instead of throwing them an inflatable doughnut, you throw them an anchor."
Todd Herzog, who appeared on Dr. Phil back in 2013 while battling alcoholism, said he was provided with free Smirnoff vodka when he arrived at the Los Angeles studio. Though host Phillip McGraw (who made $75 million last year) said at the time that he had "never talked to a guest who was closer to death," Herzog's account of the events leading up to his on-camera appearance paints a far more complicated picture. According to Herzog, he arrived at the studio "not intoxicated" to find a bottle of Smirnoff in his dressing room, which he consumed. Allegedly, someone later gave Herzog a Xanax.
"You know, I get that it's a television show and that they want to show the pain that I'm in," Herzog said in the STAT x Globe report. "However, what would have happened if I died there? You know, that's horrifying."
Another person in the damning new report alleged that a Dr. Phil staff member told her to hit an "open-air drug market" to score heroin for her niece, who was in the middle of detoxing at the time. Read the extensive report in full here.
In a statement, Martin Greenberg—the show's director of professional affairs—denied the allegations. "Addicts are notorious for lying, deflecting, and trivializing," Greenberg said. "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."