Dr. Phil and the Land of Oz
Danielle Bregoli, now known professionally as Bhad Bhabie, became internet famous back in 2016 when she (then only 13 years old) appeared on the popular daytime talk show Dr. Phil and launched a thousand “Cash me outside” memes. The episode followed the “troubled teen” format common among daytime tv, where the host parades mostly teenage girls in front of boo-ing audiences. If you’ve ever found yourself in the middle of a conversation between people who seem way too pumped about spanking their kids, you’ll at least be familiar with the atmosphere.
After filming an entire episode of grown adults hurling verbal abuse at children, they are typically sent to some kind of program meant to fix their bad attitudes. The show producers throw in a few clips of the children being yelled at by Army drill instructors and the credits roll to fervent audience applause.
The shows don’t usually do follow-up segments to see how the children are doing after leaving the programs, but it’s questionable how much of these shows are real and how much is scripted, so no one really asks. However, in March of 2021, Danielle Bregoli brought that reality into stark relief when she uploaded a video to YouTube detailing alleged abuse that she and other teens suffered at Turn-About Ranch, a wilderness therapy and residential treatment facility they were sent to and for which Dr. Phil is a strong advocate.
The accusations are salacious, detailing charges of sleep deprivation, forced labor, and refusal to provide clothing or blankets to the children. When asked about the conditions at the Ranch, Dr. Phil, who isn’t even a practicing doctor (his license expired in 2006), says he’s not involved in the program and receives no feedback from the staff. Essentially, he’s saying it’s not his problem, “What happens there is between them and the facility.” He also hid behind an all too common victim-blaming trope, “I assume she would have filed a complaint with the proper authorities when it happened.”
This isn’t a simple sponsorship, he’s sending children to these places and their parents are trusting that he’s done his due diligence to ensure these programs are run safely. Turn-About Ranch is still listed on Dr. Phils website as a rehabilitation/therapy resource despite multiple lawsuits dating all the way back to 2012, horrifically alleging sexual assault, torture, and human trafficking.
Dr. Phil should be using his platform and influence to call for investigations into the program’s inner workings. He could at the very least distance himself and remove it as a suggested resource from his website while the lawsuits make their way through court, but he won’t. Dr. Phil may have once been a compassionate psychologist who genuinely wanted to help the guests on his show, but today he’s nothing more than a Carny. What matters isn’t the lives of these, very real, children, it’s his ratings, his celebrity, and his money.
Dr. Mehmet Oz is another well trusted TV personality who isn’t what he seems. The ten time Emmy award winner is Donald Trump’s favorite TV doctor, serving on then President Trump’s Council on Sports, Fitness, and Nutrition back in 2018. It’s notable that most of his professional accolades are television related, because his reputation in the medical community tells a different story. In 2015, a letter authored by ten doctors was sent to Columbia University, where Oz is a professor, accusing him of promoting, “quack treatments and cures in the interest of personal financial gain.”
A study from the British Medical Journal, one year prior, looked at forty randomly selected episodes from Dr. Oz’s TV show and determined that his medical advice was supported by evidence only 46% of the time. The bullshit he’s peddled to his viewers include miracle fat burning supplements, doubts about the safety of GMO foods, and most recently touting hydroxychloroquine as an effective COVID-19 treatment. Despite once being a respected thoracic surgeon, Dr. Oz is more concerned with his own fame and celebrity than he is with giving his audience and viewers research-based medical advice.
Together, Phil and Oz bring in almost 4 million viewers to their daytime talk shows. People you know are watching them everyday and taking their advice and recommendations seriously. Dr. Phil exploits vulnerable people with real problems while Dr. Oz peddles irresponsible miracle cures to desperate people. All in the name of ratings. Stop trusting these “experts” who use their highly influential platforms only to continue padding their own pockets. Instead, applaud Bhad Bhabie for using her platform to support victims and call out hypocrisy.