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‘Dr. Phil’ Accused of Toxic Workplace in Report; Host’s Lawyer Blasts Back: ‘Clickbait Story’

Dr Phil
Courtesy of Craig Matthew

Patrick Morris, Phil McGraw’s personal attorney, is speaking out against accusations of a toxic workplace environment against the long-running daytime talk show “Dr. Phil.” A dozen current and former employees of the long-running series spoke to BuzzFeed News about the verbal abuse, fear, intimidation and racism they faced behind the scenes of the production.

“It is a clickbait story, because as everyone knows, Dr. Phil sells tickets,” Morris said in a statement to Variety. “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.”

A spokesperson for ViacomCBS tells Variety that “creating safe and inclusive working environments is a top priority” for the “Dr. Phil” parent company, adding, “We provide multiple avenues through which employees can report complaints to the company both on the record and anonymously,” the ViacomCBS spokesperson said. “We encourage any employee who believes that they or others within the company have been treated unfairly to report it without a fear of retaliation. We take seriously all such reports.”

In addition to toxic workplace claims, seven of the employees accused “Dr. Phil” of manipulating guests of the show who are already in a vulnerable state. One former employee allegedly received instructions to make sure a guest on the show didn’t take her prescribed medication.

“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,” the employee told BuzzFeed News. “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.”

Seven employees also accused the “Dr. Phil” production of encouraging them to perpetuate racist stereotypes onscreen. None of the current or former employees who spoke to BuzzFeed News witnessed “Dr. Phil” host Phil McGraw being toxic or abusive on set. The majority of employees identified executive producer Carla Pennington and other senior-level staffers as being verbally abusive. But Tiffany Clark, a 31-year-old who was a part of Paramount Pictures’ rotating page program and worked on “Dr. Phil” said, “How can he not know?”

A “Dr. Phil” spokesperson gave Variety the following statement:

“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. Buzzfeed has been provided with dozens and dozens of attributed statements of fact, from current and past staff. Verifiable data contradicting the entire premise of their ‘anonymously attributed,’ sensationalized and baseless article.

“‘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. We are grateful for the overwhelming number of proud, dedicated colleagues who have helped achieve our sustained success through 20 seasons of the program with many more to come.”

Representatives for BuzzFeed have not yet returned Variety’s request for comment.