Dr. Phil stands by disturbing Shelley Duvall interview

Dr. Phil McGraw and the general public probably have very different impressions of his long-running daytime television show. If you ask McGraw, he might say that the legacy of Dr. Phil was helping people; if you ask anybody else, they might say the legacy was exploiting people. That divide is present when considering the infamous Shelley Duvall episode in 2016, in which the reclusive actor professed to be sick and shared disturbing delusions on camera. The show saw intense backlash after the interview, but McGraw saw no issues with it to this day.

“I don’t regret what I did,” Dr. Phil told Chris Wallace when asked about the Duvall interview on Who’s Talking to Chris Wallace. “I regret that it was promoted in a way that people thought was unbecoming.”

Dr. Phil asked if he regretted how he handled his interview with Shelley Duvall

Ah, the old, “I’m sorry if you were offended” non-apology. McGraw clearly doesn’t agree with those who found the situation unbecoming. “There are parts of that story that I haven’t talked about and won’t talk about in specific, but I can say generally that we worked with her family [and] with her for over a year off camera, after the fact, providing her with opportunities for inpatient and outpatient psychiatric care. I can’t tell you the extent we went through,” he said. “And the people who were critical of it, nobody ever asked them what they ever did to try and help her. And the answer is not a damn thing.”

As a matter of fact, a 2021 Hollywood Reporter profile painted a picture of a still-reclusive star who has nonetheless created a support system that includes some of the very friends and fans who were critical of the Dr. Phil episode. A waitress pulled writer Seth Abramovitch aside to ensure his intentions; later, she told him that “Everybody was appalled” by McGraw’s interview. “It just came across as craven and sensational.”

As for Duvall, she told Abramovitch she “found out the kind of person [McGraw] is the hard way.” Both her mother and partner Dan Gilroy disapproved of the interview: “A lot of people, like Dan, said, ‘You shouldn’t have done that, Shelley,’” she recalled. “He started calling my mother. She told him, ‘Don’t call my daughter anymore.’ But he started calling my mother all the time trying to get her to let me talk to her again.”

A spokesperson for the show stated to THR that they were “of course very disappointed” that Duvall declined their offer of help. “We don’t attach the stigma associated with mental illness which many do,” the spokesperson said in part. Despite not attaching any stigma to mental illness, the show still presents people suffering from mental illness to an audience who did stigmatize it. Don’t they bear some responsibility for that?

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