Dr. Phil: Tabloids Made Me Out as a ‘Pervert’

     WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (CN) – Dr. Phil sued the National Enquirer’s publisher, claiming the tabloid pumped out disparaging articles about him for years on end and falsely portrayed him as a “philandering pervert.”
     Phillip McGraw, best-selling author and star of the daytime talk show “Dr. Phil,” claims in court that American Media has published dozens of skewed articles about him and his wife through its tabloids, including the National Enquirer, Star Magazine and Radar Online.
     “Dr. and Mrs. McGraw have tolerated [American Media’s] unlawful conduct for far too long,” the lawsuit reads.
     “The false accusations made by [America Media] against Dr. and Mrs. McGraw in those articles were manufactured and published to increase corporate revenues and profits at the unlawful financial, reputational and emotional expense of its targets, while simultaneously using their names, likeness and fame as a buzz-creating and revenue-generating catalyst.”
     Dr. Phil says the stories about him are often “manufactured out of whole cloth” by paid sources who routinely exaggerate their claims about him and his wife.
     American Media has published more than 80 articles about McGraw and his wife since the late 1990s, in hopes of generating revenue for its financially struggling brands, the lawsuit alleges.
     One article published by Radar Online in 2012 “maliciously defamed Mrs. McGraw by conveying to the average reader that she is a fraud and professional hypocrite suffering from the very same spousal abuse that she so fervently campaigns and advocates against,” according to the lawsuit.
     A more recent piece in the Enquirer, published in March 2016, leads the reader to believe Dr. Phil is “guilty of infidelity [and] sexual assault,” and that “he is a philandering pervert,” the lawsuit alleges.
     Yet another article, published in 2016 by Star Magazine, portrays Dr. Phil as “an abusive boss guilty of assault and battery,” the talk show star says.
     Some of the allegations in the articles were apparently drawn from publicly available court claims against McGraw, including a lawsuit filed earlier this year by Leah Rothman, a former Dr. Phil Show employee who claimed he terrorized his staff and went on a tirade over an in-house media leak.
     Though the claims would be fair game if properly handled, the tabloids “intentionally took statements from the proceedings out of context” by “maliciously parsing or juxtaposing them,” Dr. Phil alleges.
     In 2012, McGraw purportedly entered into a settlement and tolling agreement with American Media under which he agreed to refrain from filing a defamation lawsuit over eight objectionable articles, in exchange for American Media’s allowing for an extension of the statute of limitations for two years.
     But soon after the settlement expired, Dr. Phil claims, American Media’s tabloids began to “republish and repeat” disparaging material about him.
     “[American Media’s] abuse of the freedom of speech and right of privacy by publishing fictionalized falsehoods must end as to the McGraws. The First Amendment cannot be used as a sword to defame and then as a shield to justify and protect the knowing publication of falsehoods regarding a person’s private and professional life,” the complaint says.
     American Media responded to the lawsuit in a statement issued to Courthouse News.
     “It’s a delicious irony that Dr. Phil, whom a California judge has called a ‘charlatan’ and the Daily Beast has called a ‘quack,’ whose ‘unseemly mélange of exploitation, celebrity parasitism and credential mining goes back years’ has filed a lawsuit against AMI and accused it of being a ‘trashy tabloid.’ This from the man who visited Britney Spears in the hospital in 2008, then issued a public statement about the visit in violation of her family’s trust,” an American Media spokesperson said.
     “AMI looks forward to successfully defending itself against Dr. Phil in a court of law, and exposing his stale and fraudulent claims for what they really are,” the spokesperson said.
     The McGraws’ complaint seeks damages for libel for four National Enquirer articles (the 2016 story, and three others from 2012), two Radar Online articles (both published in 2012), and the Star Magazine article published this past March.
     The couple is arguing that American Media has incorrectly asserted that the statute of limitations, including the tolling agreement term, for libel claims on the 2012 articles expired in 2015. According to Dr. Phil, the statute of limitations may extend into Dec. 2016.
     The lawsuit was filed in Palm Beach County Court, and was made public upon its assignment to a circuit judge last Friday.
     McGraw and his wife are demanding more than $250 million in damages. They are represented by Lin Wood in Atlanta along with Grier Pressly in West Palm Beach.

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