UPDATE, 9 AM: The downside, if you’re Dr. Phil and you decline to appear on CNN last night to defend your show’s quickly deleted controversial tweet, is that the program may book Jerry Springer as your stand-in. That said, it went surprisingly well for Dr. Phil. “[Dr. Phil McGraw] does a serious talk show. I do a circus. It would be different on my show and maybe not appropriate,” Springer told CNN’s Erin Burnett last night about the tweet, which had been put up to collect string for an upcoming episode of the Dr Phil syndicated talker that will be tied to breaking news events. This was the tweet: “If a girl is drunk, is it OK to have sex with her?” The tweet was deleted when outrage erupted and McGraw issued a statement of apology. “In his show, it is a serious issue,” Springer said. “For them to raise it as a subject on their show, I don’t see what the problem is. It should be discussed. I don’t know why they took it down.”
PREVIOUS, WEDNESDAY AM: Is it OK for a daytime talk show that trades in the discussion of hot-button topics to collect string for an upcoming episode by tweeting a provocative question to the show host’s 1.2 million followers? The Dr. Phil show and its host found themselves on the receiving end of a lot of snark and outrage this week after a staffer on the syndicated series tweeted in his Twitter account (1.2 million followers): “If a girl is drunk, is it OK to have sex with her? Reply yes or no to @drphil.” The tweet included the hashtag “#teensaccused,” by way of making it clear the question was being asked about a recent news story. An orgy of outrage ensued (which included a selection of The Reporters Who Cover Television, some of whom did not mention the tweet, if grievously worded, was fairly standard operating procedure at talk shows collecting string these days) — and the tweet was deleted.
This morning, the show issued a statement about yesterday’s fracas:
“This Tweet was intended to evoke discussion leading into a very serious show topic based upon a recent news story, hence the #teensaccused label. It was a poll question, not a statement or a joke. As he has maintained over many years, Dr. Phil believes that the position of those incapacitated in any fashion; be it drugs, alcohol, age or mental illness can not and do not have the capacity to give their consent to anything, especially sex, which could have life changing repercussions. This was a research post in preparation for a show, not a personal post and Dr. Phil deleted it the second he saw it. It was clearly ill-advised. We sincerely apologize that it suggested anything other than what was intended, data gathering. As you can imagine, Dr. Phil is very upset that this happened.”
The episode is being taped today to be used in the coming season of the long-running talk show. No word whether the backlash to the tweet will be mentioned in the broadcast, which will air long after the fact. Naturally, the inevitable #DrPhilQuestions hashtag quickly started trending on Twitter, with predictable results. In case you missed it, here’s some of the reaction to yesterday’s tweet:
– @DrPhil The answer is No, Never you jackass. And then you kick whoever asked you in the throat. #teensaccused
– Are you “asking for a friend”? RT @DrPhil: If a girl is drunk, is it OK to have sex with her? Reply yes or no to @drphil #teensaccused
– Dr Oz was saving lives today and Dr. Phil is trying to hook up with drunk girls where is @oprah she needs to have an emergency team meeting