Dr. Phil is again in hot water. This time, he is being sued by Thomas Riccio — the memorabilia dealer who led O.J. Simpson to a hotel room to regain sports memorabilia. In his torts action, Riccio says that Philip McGraw and Stage 29 Media committed defamation, fraud, and infliction of emotional distress in editing his interview to leave a false impression.
Dr. Phil only recently got through allegations of violating ethical and legal rules in his pursuit of Britany Spears.
The show attacked Riccio as “the shady deal maker,” “a puppet master who would sell his soul for a coin” and “the ring leader of this crime.” Dr. Phil allegedly said that Riccio admitted that he “set O.J. Simpson up and told people to bring guns into the room.”
Riccio says that his denials of such allegations were edited out and he was even shown nodding yes to one allegation when the real tape allegedly shows him denying it. The complaint brings a new meaning to Dr. Phil’s common advice: “Sometimes you just got to give yourself what you wish someone else would give you.” Riccio insists that he never gave Dr. Phil the statements Dr. Phil wanted.
On its face, it would offer some viable claims and could make for an interesting case on the editing of such tapes. False light is a common charge in such cases as well as straight defamation. Even though Riccio is now a public figure, such changes (if proven) would probably violate even the New York Times v. Sullivan standard as showing actual knowledge of falsity or reckless disregard. If anything, Dr. Phil would appear to approve of going to court since “Awareness without action is worthless.”
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