Dr. Phil McGraw tried to clarify the controversial comments he made during Thursday night's appearance on Laura Ingraham's Fox News show. During his segment on the show, he compared the coronavirus pandemic to car accidents, pool drownings and cigarette-related deaths, none of which are contagious diseases like COVID-19. McGraw said he "probably used bad examples" while advocating for the country to resume business as usual even as the number of coronavirus deaths grow.
McGraw's comments on The Ingraham Angle sparked instant outrage on Twitter. "The fact of the matter is we have 45,000 people a year die from automobile accidents, 480,000 from cigarettes, 360,000 from swimming pools and we don't shut the country down for that," McGraw told Ingraham. "And yet we are doing it for this, and the fallout is going to last for years because people’s lives are going to be destroyed."
In his Friday Facebook Live chat, McGraw acknowledged that he made similar comments in the past and admitted using non-contagious examples was not the best way to make his point. "Now last night I said we as a society have chosen to live with certain controllable deadly risks every day," McGraw said, reports Deadline. "Smoking, auto crashes, swimming. And yes, I know that those are not contagious. So probably bad examples. And I refer to them as numbers of deaths that we apparently find acceptable because we do little or nothing about them. I get that they are not contagious, so they are probably not good examples."
McGraw also got the average number of drowning deaths in the U.S. incorrect. According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, there was an average of 3,536 unintentional drownings each year between 2005 and 2014 in the U.S. On Friday, McGraw said he was quoting the worldwide number of deaths. The World Health Organization estimates there are an average of 320,000 annual drowning deaths worldwide.
"Whatever happens, we need to do it in a coordinated fashion. We need to do all of this together," McGraw said Friday, adding that people should still follow the guidelines set by governors. He said his focus during the crisis is on the psychological toll the lockdowns have caused. He added that his longterm message is "Let's stick together as Americans, care about our neighbors."0comments
"If in fact it turns out that we are going to need to be locked down for a long period of time, we really need to garner resources with that, to given them coping strategies they need, the support they need," he said. "I am not an infectious disease expert. I am not a microbiologist. I look at this from a human behavior psychological standpoint."
McGraw's comments sparked immediate reaction online since they came just hours after Dr. Mehmet Oz, another daytime talk show host, came under fire for his comments on Fox News. Oz suggested the death toll might be a "trade-off" worth facing when schools reopen Wednesday night. On Thursday, Oz said he "misspoke," adding, "I've realized my comments and risks around opening schools have confused and upset people, which was never my intention."