Friday, January 18, 2008

Dr. Phil's Bedside Manure

If Hillary Clinton supporters want to attack Oprah for backing Barack Obama, they could question her judgment about people in creating the cultural embarrassment known as Dr. Phil.

The good Dr. McGraw's latest misadventure in poisoning the well of psychology as a profession involves a reported complaint about his hospital visit to Britney Spears this month, which may constitute practicing without a license in California, and promoting his excursion to the pop star, which could be a violation of doctor-patient privilege.

Since advising her in a lawsuit over dissing beef over a decade ago, McGraw has parlayed appearances on Oprah's show into his own syndicated program, frequent appearances on Larry King, a weight-loss business and a number of legal hassles of his own making.

Peddling pious platitudes and pep talks as psychological insight pays well, starting with Dr. Phil's $15 million syndication deal and a new show later this year in which he will be coaching other medical "experts" in how to connect with TV audiences.

Off-camera, however, he is not that popular. In addition to the possible Britney Spears problem, Dr. Phil is being sued by brothers involved in the case of Natalee Holloway, victim of a headline disappearance in Aruba, for "invasion of privacy, fraud, deceit, defamation, emotional distress, and civil conspiracy."

TV's favorite psychologist lost his license to practice in his home state as a result of disciplinary sanctions imposed by the Texas State Board of Examiners of Psychologists in 1989 after a former therapy client filed a complaint, claiming their relationship was inappropriate.

Since then, he has made a brilliant career out of being inappropriate in public. Obama admirers can only hope Dr. Phil doesn't join Oprah in stumping for him and create psychological problems for his campaign.

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