Current and former employees of Phil McGraw’s talk show Dr. Phil made allegations of having experienced toxic work conditions—including verbal abuse, intimidation, and racism—and inappropriate interactions with guests, in a Buzzfeed expose released on Thursday.
None of the dozen employees that spoke to the outlet witnessed McGraw participate in any of the alleged behavior, nor is there any evidence that he saw any of the abuse himself. Series executive producer Carla Penington and other senior staff have been accused of “screaming and berating” employees. A spokesperson for Dr.Phil and McGraw denied all allegations.
“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,” the Dr. Phil spokesperson tells Deadline.
Adding, “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.”
Seven of the employees said they were “encouraged to perpetuate racist stereotypes onscreen” in addition to two others who said they faced racism behind the scenes. There are also allegations from a former employee who says they were instructed to tamper with a guest’s prescribed medication before cameras begin “because they wanted her to look unstable and quote-unquote, ‘crazy,’ for lack of a better term,” the Buzzfeed report notes.
A spokesperson for ViacomCBS also released a statement.
“Creating safe and inclusive working environments is a top priority at ViacomCBS. We provide multiple avenues through which employees can report complaints to the company both on the record and anonymously. 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,” the statement reads.
Attorneys for Penington also denied the allegations in a statement to Buzzfeed.
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