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Despite Reports, Dr. Phil Was NOT Disciplined For ‘Molesting Young Patient’


DrPhil LawNewz has been keeping you apprised on the latest when it comes to “Dr. Phil” McGraw’s $250 million defamation lawsuit against American Media Inc., the parent company of The National Enquirer, Star Magazine, and Radar Online. That includes our article from Friday where we had a rundown of the barrage of negative articles on Dr. Phil that Radar had run over the course of the preceding week. The most newsworthy of the Radar articles (the substance of which was also the subject of pieces in Star and the Enquirer) centered around a 1988 disciplinary action against Dr. Phil, and sexual abuse allegations that the patient at the center of the action, Sara Morrison, made to the Enquirer in 2009. While, obviously, the latter had been reported before online, the 1988 action hadn’t been.

That said, as we noted on Friday, the article was strangely written: The Radar article framed the document that they posted from the Texas State Board of Examiners of Psychologists as supporting the allegation that Dr. Phil was disciplined for an “inappropriate dual relationship” where he groped and kissed the former patient without consent or reciprocation. That was a bit of slight of hand, as the document that Radar uploaded only referenced an “inappropriate dual relationship” where Morrison served as both a patient and a paid intern. Also, the document was missing the first page of the 1988 disciplinary action, so as we noted at the close of Friday’s article, we requested a copy directly from the Texas State Board of Examiners of Psychologists. This way, we would be completely sure about what we were reading and if there was any significance to the missing page.

On Monday morning, the Board responded to the request with the the full document, which is posted below. The missing first page (actually the second page of the overall file, which starts with the 1990 letter that closes the complaint) makes it perfectly clear that there is no mention of the sexual misconduct allegations and that Dr. Phil was not actually disciplined for allegedly molesting a patient. In addition to the lack of references to any kind of sexual misconduct, these are the key parts to pay attention to as far as what was actually alleged in the disciplinary action:

  • “Specifically, it was alleged that an inappropriate dual relationship developed between the licensee and Sara Jane Morrison during the course of a therapeutic relationship which existed between the doctor and the complainant.”
  • “[A] doctor/patient relationship was established between the complainant and Phillip C. McGraw on or about June, 1984, and continued through August of 1985.”
  • “[L]icensee and complainant had an ongoing therapeutic relationship followed closely by a business relationship in the form of part-time temporary employment.”

Even if you do believe Morrison’s allegations, Dr. Phil’s disciplinary record can’t be taken as “confirmation” of them the way that Radar and the other AMI publications framed them. As for the missing page, LawNewz has reached out to an American Media spokesperson and received this statement:

We published the relevant findings of fact and conclusions of law, which had previously been published in print.  We did not include the first page because it is simply a summary of the relevant dates Ms. Morrison filed her complaint and the Board responded.  The allegations of sexual misconduct are from an on-the-record interview with Ms. Morrison based on her complaint filed with the Board.

Meanwhile, on Monday morning, Radar put up another Dr. Phil article titled “Judge RIPS Charlatan Shrink Dr. Phil: He’s A ‘Terrible, Terrible Man!’” The provenance of it is a bit questionable in a sense: Tagged as an “EXCLUSIVE,” and subtitled “Inside the lawsuit exposing the REAL McGraw,” neither really applies to the article. As we noted in our original post about the defamation lawsuit, which included a statement that AMI made alluding to said judge’s comments, the statements about Dr. Phil were from the prosecution of shoplifters who appeared on the “Dr. Phil” TV show.

In other words: This was not a case that Dr. Phil was a party to. It was also not a “lawsuit” as Radar claimed, and it’s not an exclusive, either, as all of the quotes attributed to the judge, Irma Gonzalez, were reported by the San Diego Union Tribune in 2010.

In addition, Dr. Phil’s attorney, Lin Wood, sent us the following statement with regard to AMI’s deluge of negative stories:

American Media has apparently decided to ignore the reality that the best way out of a deep hole is to stop digging. In my view, American Media’s PR strategy to repeat and renew its false and misleading attacks on Dr. McGraw will backfire on it in the litigation.

Dr. Phil’s Texas Disciplinary File (Full version produced to LawNewz) by LawNewz on Scribd

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David Bixenspan is a writer, editor, and podcaster based in New York.