UPDATE on Friday, December 29: A Dr. Phil spokesperson has responded to the allegations, saying in a statement to E! News: "The Stat article does not fairly or accurately describe the methods of Dr. Phil, the TV show, or its mission to educate millions of viewers about drug and alcohol addiction. The show does not give drugs or alcohol to its guests and any suggestions to the contrary is errant nonsense. "
"For the past 16 years, the Dr. Phil show has provided valuable information to viewers by telling compelling stories about people who are fighting the battle to overcome alcohol and drug addiction," the statement continued. "Unfortunately, addicts often lash out at the very people who are trying the hardest to help them break the cycle of addiction. Although terribly unfortunate, this is an understandable part of the behavior of addicts on their journey to recovery. Deception, dishonesty and denial are hallmarks of addiction. It tears families apart and certainly creates levels of complexities when we produce these important shows. None of this will deter the Dr. Phil show from it's commitment to continue to educate and inform the public about the worsening epidemic of addiction."
A new investigation uncovers troubling allegations against Dr. Phil and his daytime talk show.
STAT and The Boston Globe published an exposé on Thursday, which includes accounts from multiple guests who say their substance addictions were enabled by members of the TV psychiatrist's staff in hopes of boosting ratings.
Todd Herzog—who struggled with alcohol abuse in the years after winning Survivor—said that when he arrived on the Dr. Phil studio in 2013, he found a bottle of vodka in his dressing room and was given a Xanax to "calm his nerves." Herzog had to be carried on set before his sit-down with Dr. Phil (whose real name is Phil McGraw), and registered a .263 blood alcohol content—more than three times the legal limit.
Additionally, family members of guests say their health and welfare was put at risk by Dr. Phil staffers who allegedly played a role in their search for drugs. The investigation also looked into the level of medical care guests with addiction issues receive while filming in Los Angeles and Dr. Phil's relationship with the treatment centers his guests often seek further help from.
Martin Greenberg, Director of Professional Affairs at the Dr. Phil show, described the above claims as "absolutely, unequivocally untrue."
"We do not do that with this guest or any other," Greenberg said when asked to address Herzog's account. He later said in a statement to the publications, "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."
Herzog said he detoxed for two days in a hotel paid for Dr. Phil, and was sober when he appeared for his scheduled taping. Greenberg initially told STAT and The Boston Globe that the show did not have a responsibility to monitor guests with substance abuse problems ("No, of course not, it's a television show."), but later said Herzog was "medically supervised the entire time" by personnel from an unnamed treatment center during his taping schedule.
The report states Greenberg shifted his stance a third time, saying in a statement, "We mean 100% of guests agreeing to treatment. It does not mean that a guest is being monitored 100% of the time."
However, the executive director of the center Herzog sought treatment from after Dr. Phil, contested claims that his staff supervised Herzog in L.A. and said doing so would violate their licenses. "I honestly regret ever having done it," Steve Thomason said in reference to his treatment center's participation on the show.
During Herzog's third appearance on Dr. Phil, he alleged finding vodka in the dressing room but did not drink all of it. Again, the show denied his claim.
Marianne Smith told the publications that when her niece, Jordan, appeared on the show in 2012 and was suffering from heroin withdrawals, producers suggested she try Skid Row in Los Angeles to find drugs. Smith also said Dr. Phil did not offer her niece any medical assistance as they awaited her taping for two days.
Greenberg issued a denial: "We could go on and talk about Jordan L. or ten others. Same reality. All had medical supervision."
Likewise, Joelle King-Parrish said the show did not provide any medical attention to her pregnant daughter Kaitlin when she was detoxing in the hotel. Staff members reportedly told her to "take care of it," and one Dr. Phil employee ultimately joined the mother and daughter with a camera in hand as they drove to Skid Row looking for heroin.
In response, Greenberg said Kaitlin's mother had previously "agreed to be 100% responsible for managing her daughter's health and possible withdrawal" and the individual who filmed the incident "simply documented the natural behavior she observed, which would have occurred whether she was there or not."
Herzog appeared on Dr. Phil for a fourth time in 2016, and said he recently wrote a letter to the television personality thanking him. "I'm grateful in a lot of ways for the show. For getting me help in the nicest places in the country. That's a gift right there," he said. "There are some things about the show that I don't like, and that I don't think are real... I should have been in the hospital, in that sense. There should not be liters of vodka in my dressing room."
Others interviewed for the story also praised Dr. Phil and the show for getting them the help they needed. Former heroin addict Niki Dietrich is one of those people, who described the show's efforts as a "miracle," adding in part, "I have nothing bad to say about that experience."
"Few people contact us just to let us know how well things are going," the show stated in a statement to STAT and The Globe. "The fact you can 'cherry pick' three, or thirty, or three hundred guests for that matter, who seek to blame others for their plight or struggle in life, is not the least bit surprising."
(Originally published on Thursday, December 28, at 6:47 p.m. PT)