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Springer weighs in on issues facing Dr. Phil

Daytime talker and Air America radio host talks about industry challenges
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Dr. Phil McGraw is on the hot seat. 

The man that has become a household name offering weight-loss remedies, talking about family help, and also giving advice on Oprah's show.  And now he is one of the most popular talk show hosts out there and a best-selling author, making millions every year.

But now Dr. Phil is also ensnared in two controversies.  First, he made news in the Natalee Holloway case after releasing a recording from one of the key suspects -- a tape that Aruban officials suggest may have been tampered with.  Now he has been sued as part of a class-action lawsuit against diet products that he has endorsed. 

On Tuesday, MSNBC's Joe Scarborough welcomed talk show host Jerry Springer, host of "The Jerry Springer Show" and "Springer on the Radio," on the Air America radio network, to talk about the controversy.

To read an excerpt of their conversation, continue to the text below. To watch the video, click on the "Launch" button to the right.

JOE SCARBOROUGH:  All right, so, Jerry, tell me, what's going on with Dr.  Phil?  You have been around syndicated TV.  You know these guys.  how can you explain a guy that moved from self-help for families into Aruban investigations and diet pills? 

JERRY SPRINGER, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  Well, first of all, I should say, I have never met Dr. Phil, so I don't know him personally, and I am not one to judge him.

But I do think what happens with talk shows is, as long as they stay in the entertainment area, that's fine, and that's good.  They invariably get in trouble when all of a sudden they cross into the line of trying to be involved in news and make news.   And there's a danger there, because you have two gods.  You have the gods of ratings to give you a hot show that people are going to watch, entertainment, and then you have the other god of news, which it's supposed to be -- there's a very strict standard about reporting and making sure that what you are talking about, you really know something about, making sure that the evidence that you present to the public is, in fact, valid.

And I think that's where perhaps that they are in trouble.  They got into this criminal case, and I am not sure that's a real subject for a talk show. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And if you get into this sort of dead zone between entertainment and news, like Dr. Phil appears to be in, is it like, let's say, Hollywood stars that decide they want to talk about nuclear proliferation or global warming, where they get out of their comfort zone, and they have this need, I guess because of ego or whatever it is, to try to save the world? 

SPRINGER:  Well, that's different.  The reason that situation is different, they are citizens.  And every citizen, regardless of their job or their position, is entitled in a democracy to have a point of view, to express that point of view, to try to influence other people to that point of view.  That's all great. 

But when you are talking about a talk show, you are talking about something that itself is an entertainment business, and when it steps into the area of news, I think that's when trouble comes.  If it would just stay in the area of entertainment, I think that's great. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, Jerry, Dr. Phil has a lot riding on this diet lawsuit and the Holloway tapes. 


SCARBOROUGH:  Consider the empire he has been building since incorporating himself five years ago.  He has written four best-selling books.  He has got a $10 million book advance.  He makes $1 million in speaking fees, and he said to take home about $15 million this year.

And, again, this is a guy that has built this empire based on what we say in Middle America is horse sense, good common horse sense. 


SCARBOROUGH:  All of a sudden, he seems to be getting out of his wheelhouse and looking kind of goofy.  That's what Dr. Phil would say about himself, if he were taking himself on the couch, saying he is being goofy here.  At what point does he start endangering this empire? 

SPRINGER:  Well, obviously, if there's a successful lawsuit against him and his credibility is then questioned, his empire is in danger then. 

Here's the problem.  This is what's different between talk show hosts and, let's say, actors.  Actors play a role, whether it's in television or in movies.  They are playing somebody else.  And then if they want to give their opinion, that's separate, but they are playing someone else. 

The problem with talk show hosts is, they are the empire of their talk show.  It's the "Dr. Phil' show.  It's the "Jerry Springer Show."  It's "The Oprah Winfrey Show."  So, therefore, we are not playing anybody else.  We are ourselves.  So what we say matters. 

We are responsible for our own words, because we are talking as ourselves.  We are not reading a script playing someone else.  That's where you have to be careful.  So, you know, as crazy as my talk show is-and there's nothing-on television, there's nothing crazier than that.  When I say something, those are my words, and I think it's the same with Oprah or with Dr. Phil. 

They can't say, well, it's just the talk show.  No, they are saying what they believe, and so their credibility is at stake.