“Survivor” star Todd Herzog is claiming that before an intoxicated appearance on the “Dr. Phil” show in 2013, he was left unattended in the show's dressing room, where he found and drank an entire bottle of Smirnoff vodka.
Then, Herzog says, he was handed a Xanax pill, with the suggestion it would “calm his nerves." That dangerous combination, he says, is what caused such impairment that he had to be helped onto the “Dr. Phil” set and lifted into a chair in a dramatic televised moment.
Herzog's claims come as part of an investigation into the popular daytime program by The Boston Globe and the health news website STAT. The report says the health of Herzog, who was appearing on the show to discuss his drinking problem, and other “Dr. Phil” guests was put at risk.
Herzog won 2007's “Survivor: China” and $1 million in prize money at age 22. But his life spiraled downward into alcoholism, he told the Globe and STAT.
He says he detoxed in his Los Angeles hotel room over the course of two days before his Dr. Phil appearance and wasn't drunk when he arrived at the studio — but Herzog says he was intoxicated and on Xanax by the time he left the dressing room.
Representatives for McGraw and for CBS, which airs “Dr. Phil”, did not immediately respond to USA TODAY's request for comment.
McGraw declined to speak to the Globe and STAT. Martin Greenberg, a psychologist who serves as the show’s director of professional affairs, denied that Herzog was left alone with alcohol in his dressing room or given Xanax.
“We do not do that with this guest or any other,” Greenberg wrote in a statement in the report. Greenberg called the allegations “absolutely, unequivocally untrue.”
Herzog, who says he's sober now and working at a restaurant in Utah, says he's thankful the show gave him opportunities to enter treatment. At the behest of a Dr. Phil producer, he wrote a letter thanking McGraw for his help.
“I’m grateful in a lot of ways for the show. For getting me help in the nicest places in the country. That’s a gift right there,” Herzog says. “There are some things about the show that I don’t like, and that I don’t think are real. … I should have been in the hospital, in that sense. There should not be liters of vodka in my dressing room.”
The report included other guests' accounts of alleged endangerment. Marianne Smith, who contacted the show for help in breaking her niece Jordan's heroin addiction, said Jordan went through drug withdrawal before appearing on Dr. Phil.
Smith claims she and Jordan’s mother were told by a show producer that heroin could be purchased on L.A.'s Skid Row. She said there was no medical supervision during the stay.
Greenberg denied that in the report, saying all guests have medical supervision.