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Dr. Phil and Dr. Oz: TV dolts adding to the problems with having a TV president

Attorney Scott Pilutik wrestles with the news of the day, from a lawyerly perspective…

[Regarding this story: After Fauci urged caution in reopening the economy, Fox News turned to Dr. Phil for a second opinion]

The most dangerous place in the country at the present moment isn’t a nursing home but rather the space between ‘Dr. Phil’ and any running television camera.

It’s easy to dismiss Phil McGraw as a manipulative hack but realize that his insatiable appetite for ratings has made him the wealthiest daytime television personality behind a trail of severely broken people. He’s influential and people, mainly elderly people, perceive him as having expertise. He’s not a physician but he gets endless mileage from the confusion engendered by employing his clinical psychology PhD.


If Trump is a poor person’s idea of a rich person, Dr. Phil is a mentally unstable person’s idea of a well person. The blame for both misconceptions can be laid at television’s feet, and not only Fox News.

But you needn’t know the above to quickly grasp how his argument deliberately conflating deaths by COVID-19 with deaths from lung cancer, car crashes, and pool drownings (“We don’t shut the country down for that”) is just a patently bad argument*, even if he happened to use real statistics instead of statistics he’d found on Twitter or wherever.

Dr. Mehmet Oz had a bad day yesterday too, when he favorably cited a Lancet study that re-opening schools would only add 2 to 3 percent (it was actually 2 to 4 percent — I read the Lancet study) to the mortality rate. He apologized, but adding 2 to 3 percent to the mortality rate would mean, using present statistics, 7,000-20,000 more deaths. Either “Dr. Oz” is fine with that trade-off for the economy’s (and his 401k’s) sake, or, if you found his apology sincere, an idiot unable to grasp the import of the exponential scalability of mortality rates before tossing them out there on national television. Unlike “Dr. Phil,” “Dr. Oz” is an actual physician beholden to the “do no harm” oath.

[*Answer: Pool drownings aren’t also contagious infections, and don’t tend to create hospital bottlenecks]

I should add that Dahlia Lithwick did a great job writing about the problems of having a television president just yesterday, which ties in nicely to my above rant, only with better words.

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