Another daytime TV star is facing claims of fostering a toxic workplace environment.
A dozen current and former Dr. Phil staffers tell BuzzFeed News that they faced verbal abuse from senior producers, experienced racism behind the scenes and witnessed guests being manipulated and treated unethically, describing the environment as “chaotic,” “hostile” and “overbearing.” One staffer called Dr. Phil “the show about mental health where everybody who works on it has terrible mental health because our work conditions were really bad.”
Host Dr. Phil McGraw is not personally accused of any toxic or abusive behavior himself, but the staffers say it was common to be yelled at and berated by executive producer Carla Pennington and other senior employees. Some staffers say they were encouraged to play up racist stereotypes on the show and discouraged from booking people of color as guests. One even alleges that they were instructed to make sure a guest didn’t take her prescribed medication “because they wanted her to look unstable.”
Representatives for McGraw and the show deny all of the claims in the article. “Dr. McGraw categorically denies racist conduct, and CBS does not tolerate racist conduct,” McGraw’s attorney H. Patrick Morris said in a statement. He added that Pennington “has the complete confidence of Dr. McGraw… The allegations against her are absurd and demonstrably false.”
A show spokesperson also responded to the story, calling it “click-bait” and noting: “From the beginning, show executives have strived to create a collaborative, safe, and open environment for Dr. Phil McGraw and all staff and guests.”
McGraw has hosted Dr. Phil since 2002, turning it into one of the top syndicated daytime shows on TV. He is currently under a multi-year deal with producers CBS that will keep Dr. Phil on the air through the 2022-23 TV season.