ABC News’ Matt Knox reports:
Phil McGraw, the psychologist who is known for dispensing no-nonsense advice on “The Dr. Phil Show,” is finding himself in the hot seat over a tweet sent from his show’s Twitter account that sparked an angry backlash.
The tweet, sent by the show’s staffers Tuesday, read, “If a girl is drunk, is it OK to have sex with her? Reply yes or no to @drphil #teensaccused”
The response to the tweet was swift. One Twitter user lashed out, tweeting: “@DrPhil By law when alcohol is a factor, no one can consent. Don’t know what’s happening to you? It’s rape, period. #teensaccused,” while another user wrote: “Telling that @DrPhil finds a “Should you rape? Yes/no?” question open to debate. #rapeculture #teensaccused”
The show quickly deleted the tweet, which McGraw called “ill-advised.” The issue of sexual assault has been addressed on his show before, including the divisive case involving two high school football players in Steubenville, Ohio, who were convicted of sexually assaulting an incapacitated girl.
In a statement issued to ABC News, a representative for McGraw said McGraw was “very upset that this happened” and that the tweet was “intended to evoke discussion leading into a very serious show topic based upon a recent news story, hence the #teensaccused label.”
Scroll down to read the show’s full statement.
The topic is set to be part of an upcoming episode when the new season starts Sept. 1.
Howard Bragman, an ABC News consultant who runs Reputation.com, said he didn’t think anyone should be punished for tweeting something that “relates to a show,” but he added, “This one was done with a little less sensitivity than Dr. Phil and his team are known for, and it caused people’s eyebrows to raise, rightfully so.”
Carmen Rios, a former college sexual-assault activist, said simply deleting the tweet is insufficient. She started a petition on Change.org to express outrage over the tweet and urge that the show devote an entire episode to victims of rape, rape prevention and educating the public about the definition of rape and sexual assault.
“It just sort of shocked me that no one on the team that’s sort of handling that outreach thought about whether or not the language they were using is harmful, or the actual angle of their intended segment would be harmful,” Rios said. “I would love if Dr. Phil took on the issue of rape and sexual assault from the standpoint of how we can start to solve the ongoing epidemic of assault, rather than focusing on, you know, what is or isn’t rape.”
As of Wednesday night, more than 1,700 people had signed the petition.
Full Statement from Dr. Phil’s representative:
“This Tweet was intended to evoke discussion leading into a very serious show topic based upon a recent news story, hence the #teensaccused label. It was a poll question, not a statement or a joke. As he has maintained over many years, Dr. Phil believes that the position of those incapacitated in any fashion; be it drugs, alcohol, age or mental illness cannot and do not have the capacity to give their consent to anything, especially sex, which could have life changing repercussions. This was a research post in preparation for a show, not a personal post and Dr. Phil deleted it the second he saw it. It was clearly ill-advised. We sincerely apologize that it suggested anything other than what was intended, data gathering. As you can imagine, Dr. Phil is very upset that this happened.”