Dr. Phil & Dr. Oz Are Facing Criticism for Insensitive Coronavirus Commentary

Mahlik Campbell

entertainment /
HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 21: Dr. Phil McGraw attends the ceremony honoring him with a star on The Hollywood Walk Of Fame on February 21, 2020 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Amy Sussman/Getty Images)

Both talk show hosts expressed interesting takes during separate interviews with Fox News.

As the U.S. approaches 36,000 deaths caused by the coronavirus, one would think that empathy and sympathy would be the leading concerns for anyone who goes on national television to talk about the pandemic.

Yet, Dr. Phil McGraw and Dr. Mehmet Öz, better known as Dr. Oz, two of the most successful self-help experts on daytime television, seemed to have overlooked the most severe human toll of the issue.

During a Thursday night interview on The Ingraham Angle, Dr. Phil, who holds a doctorate in clinical psychology from the University of North Texas, compared COVID-19 deaths to those from car crashes, cigarettes and swimming pool accidents.


"250 people a year die from poverty, and the poverty line is getting such that more and more people are going to fall below that because the economy is crashing around us," Dr. Phil said while arguing against shutting down the country due to the economical impact. "And they’re doing that because people are dying from the coronavirus, I get that."

He continued, "But look, the fact of the matter is we have people dying, 45,000 people a year die from automobile accidents, 480,000 from cigarettes, 360,000 a year from swimming pools, but we don’t shut the country down for that but yet we’re doing it for this? And the fallout is going to last for years because people’s lives are being destroyed."

It's worth noting that Dr. Phil's estimate related to deaths from swimming pool accidents is pretty far from the truth. According to the CDC, "an average of 3,536" people die from "unintentional drownings (non-boating related) annually in the United States."

These comments sparked a wave of criticism online, and Dr. Phil may be addressing the backlash with a cross-platform live stream on Friday afternoon.

Earlier this week, Dr. Oz, who's trained in medicine, also joined Fox News. He offered similarly controversial comments on Sean Hannity's show while discussing the reopening of the economy.

“First, we need our mojo back,” he said Tuesday night. Dr. Oz then pointed toward institutions, like schools, that could be opened “without getting into a lot of trouble” as a first step toward restarting daily life.

"Schools are a very appetizing opportunity. I just saw a nice piece in The Lancet arguing the opening of schools may only cost us 2 to 3%, in terms of total mortality. And, you know, any life is a life lost, but to get every child back into a school where they're safely being educated, being fed, and making the most out of their lives with the theoretical risk in the backside, it might be a trade-off some folks would consider."

Needless to say, people were outraged by these thoughts as well. As responses poured in, Dr. Oz shared a half-apology, half-explanation video on Twitter. "I misspoke," he wrote in the caption.

Here's one meme to sum up the negative public attention. 😅