The reality TV show “Dr. Phil” is being accused of a rash of abusive and unethical behavior on its set by current and former employees — including an grim instance in which workers were allegedly instructed to withhold medication from a guest on the show to play up the entertainment value of a segment.
A dozen current and former employees accused Phil McGraw, the eponymous host of “Dr. Phil,” of enabling a toxic and abusive workplace, Buzzfeed News reports. The employees say they were frequently berated by producers, sometimes in a racist manner, and even instructed to perpetuate racist stereotypes onscreen.
There also were instances in which employees say they were ordered to participate in unethical and abusive behavior involving the show’s guests. On one occasion, a former employee was allegedly instructed to make sure a guest didn’t take her prescribed psychiatric medication in order to create more sensational television.
“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.
Luckily, the woman was able to take her medication before an employee reached her. Still, it sounds indicative of a type of behavior that put messy television above the actual mental health needs of guests.
“That’s all for the sake of TV,” the same employee later added. “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.”
The employees specifically accused executive producer Carla Pennington of frequently screaming at and berating staff members. While none of the workers say they witnessed this type of behavior from McGraw himself, they say he nonetheless turned a blind eye to it.
The work environment was so bad, in fact, that the employees said that their own mental health was damaged due to on-set behavior.
“Everyone was just pretty miserable,” another former employee told BuzzFeed. “You would walk into the building and there was just a palpable dread and anxiety. ‘Dr. Phil’ — the show about mental health where everybody who works on it has terrible mental health because our work conditions were really bad.”
Lawyers for McGraw have denied the allegations and insist that the workplace is not abusive, racist, and toxic.
“Dr. McGraw categorically denies racist conduct and CBS does not tolerate racist conduct,” H. Patrick Morris, McGraw’s attorney, told BuzzFeed News.
Of course, these are all just accusations — but it would really be no surprise that a reality TV mental health show would turn a blind eye to abusive and unethical behavior to create sensational televised drivel.
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