Someone better prescribe some silence for Dr. Phil. The television personality is getting dragged for comparing COVID-19 to car accidents and drowning, so here’s what you need to know about him.
“250 people a year die from poverty and the poverty line is getting such that more and more people are going to fall below that because the economy is crashing around us. And they’re doing that because people are dying from the coronavirus. I get that,” Phil “Dr. Phil” McGraw, 69, said during the Thursday (Apr. 16) episode of Laura Ingram’s show on Fox News. From there, he claimed that “45,000 people a year die from automobile accidents, 480,000 from cigarettes, 360,000 a year from swimming pools, but we don’t shut the country down for that. But yet we’re doing it for this? And the fallout is going to last for years because people’s lives are being destroyed.”
The television personality was dragged immediately by fans and experts alike. About 3,500 people die unintentionally drown each year in the U.S., according to CDC (per The Washington Post), and not just in pools. Many pointed out that cigarette smoking and automobile accidents aren’t transmittable like a disease.
“This statement from Dr. Phil is stupid. None of the things he mentions is contagious,” tweeted Rep. Ted Lieu. “Also, the case fatality rate of #COVID19 is over 4% in the US. If 4% of people who routinely went swimming would die & 15% would end up in the hospital, I guarantee Dr. Phil would not go swimming.” As everyone takes shots at “Dr. Phil,” here’s what you need to know about him.
1. He has a degree in psychology. Philip Calvin McGraw was born in Vinita, Oklahoma. He earned a football scholarship to the University of Tulsa before finishing his undergraduate studies at Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, Texas. He graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in psychology in 1975, according to Biography. Four years later, he would earn his Ph.D. in psychology from the University of North Texas. He would soon open his private practice, but determined one-on-one therapy wasn’t for him. So, he launched his self-motivation seminar, Pathways, shortly afterward.
2. …but Dr. Phil no longer holds a license to legally practice psychology. Phil McGraw has a doctorate, so he’s technically “Dr. Phil.” He was licensed to practice in Texas, according to a 2008 post by The New York Times, but he’s no longer licensed in the Lone Star State, nor in the state of California, or anywhere else. Dr. Phil’s lack of license came to the spotlight when he visited Britney Spears at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, and many wondered if he violated her medical privacy.
3. He gained national fame after helping out Oprah. After launching his self-motivation seminar, Dr. Phil founded a company called Courtoom Sciences, Inc. The venture helps trial lawyers build cases during mock trials, behavioral analysis, jury selection, and mediation, according to Biography. It was through Courtroom Sciences that Phil connected with Oprah Winfrey. In 1996, she was being sued by disgruntled Texas cattleman (who claimed she defamed them and the beef industry.) Her defense team sought out CSI for help. Phil and his crew coached Oprah’s team, and they emerged victorious.
“The actual first time I was ever on ‘Oprah’ was in Amarillo, Texas,” he said on the Rachel Ray show in 2018, “the night the verdict came in. We were in the little theater in Amarillo, Texas, and she said ‘I want to introduce you to the man that gave myself back to me, and that’s Dr. Phil McGraw. And he’s sitting right here.’” Audiences were taken by Phil’s down-home charm. It led to the recurring “Tuesday with Dr. Phil” segment, and then, the Dr. Phil show in 2002.
4. He’s been married for more than 40 years. Dr. Phil married his first wife, Debbie Higgins McCall, in 1970. While annulling the marriage in 1973, he met Robin Jo Jameson. They were married in 1976. Since then, they’ve welcomed two sons – –Jay McGraw and Jordan McGraw.
5. He’s not the only TV medical personality coming under fire during COVID. Along with Dr. Phil, Dr. Oz was hit with backlash by saying that reopening schools “may only cost us 2 to 3 percent in terms of total mortality.” Dr. Drew Pinksy also had to apologize for downplaying the severity of the COVID-19 threat. “I wish I had gotten it right, but I got it wrong,” he said in a video.
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