Jan. 18, 2008 — -- Phil McGraw says his recent visit to Britney Spears in the hospital was appropriate. His only regret: issuing a statement about it.
"Was it helpful to the situation? Regrettably, no. It was not, and I have to acknowledge that and I do," the talk show host told his audience Thursday during taping of a "Dr. Phil" episode that will run Monday.
"I definitely think if I had it to do over again, I probably wouldn't make any statement at all. Period."
Later, in an exclusive interview with USA TODAY, McGraw discussed events that have made him the focus of intense criticism: the Jan. 5 hospital visit, his statement about it to "Entertainment Tonight" and a planned then canceled episode that was to have focused on Spears' situation.
At the request of Spears' parents, McGraw says, he visited the pop star as "a friend and ally of the family," not as a psychologist. He stopped practicing years ago and is not licensed in California.
He hoped for a "gentle and relaxed dialogue that might be of value" in helping Britney find medical professionals should she seek help.
He would not discuss details of the conversation or respond to some reports that the 26-year-old singer did not take well to the visit.
McGraw says he issued the statement to "ET" because he knew the media would see him and he wanted to explain why he was there.
He disputes those who say he inappropriately discussed her condition in the statement, which referred to Spears being "in dire need of both medical and psychological intervention."
"I said that before I ever met her," he says.
The canceled episode, a follow-up to an October show that focused on the singer's difficulties, was being planned in December and wasn't concocted after she was hospitalized, McGraw says.
Spears' mother, Lynne, called to thank him for his sensitivity after the first episode, McGraw says. Lynne was to have appeared on the second one, examining parents with troubled adult children, he says. Britney was not scheduled as a guest nor was there any plan for an intervention.
A Spears' family representative told NBC's "Today" that Lynne Spears never intended to appear on Dr. Phil. (The family did not respond to USA TODAY's interview requests.)
McGraw decided to cancel the taping after controversy over the hospital visit erupted. "There was so much noise. … I decided this isn't the time to do it," he says.
Asked if he would make the same visit again, at the request of concerned parents, McGraw says, "How do you not?"