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Healthy Skepticism Library item: 12136

Warning: This library includes all items relevant to health product marketing that we are aware of regardless of quality. Often we do not agree with all or part of the contents.


Publication type: news

Corson E.
A real doozy of a mistake (Georgia, USA) 2007 Dec 5

Full text:

Montel Williams showed a side of himself in Savannah last Friday that few of his television fans would have guessed that he possesed: The obnoxious bully.

Williams was in town to promote the pharmaceutical industry’s program offering free prescription drugs to the poor, the subject of TV commercials quoting folks who credit the program fronted by Williams for saving their lives.

The pharmaceutical industry is under severe criticism for its high prices; it insists they result from its need to do so much research and development. But critics claim the high costs really result from lavish direct marketing to physicians and multi-page ads urging consumers to get their doctors to prescribe a given drug for them.

A high school intern reporter for the Savannah Morning News made the mistake of asking Williams, as an industry spokesperson, a question related to that controversy: Did he think pharmaceutical R&D would suffer if the industry’s profits were “restricted.”

It sounded like a polite and legitimate query. But perhaps Williams had been expecting only softball questions from such a novice. He ended the interview then and there.

Well, OK, no rule says a celebrity has to answer a question he considers off base.

But later the intern and two other reporters happened to be covering another story at a Savannah hotel. Williams apparently thought they were ambushing him and lost control. Getting in the face of the teenage reporter, young Courtney Scott, he informed her he was “a big star” and could “find where you live and blow you up.”

Apart from his inflated self-characterization, the grotesqueness of the threat leads one to wonder, just what was he thinking of? Trying to be funny? Scaring away a celebrity-chaser? Venting his spleen at someone who had had the audacity to ask a serious question?

An apology was issued the next day (after the alarmed young woman had filed a police report on the incident) – purporting to come from him but e-mailed by his producer – “I reacted childishly to the situation.” Williams offered to apologize to Scott and her parents publicly on his talk show.

The young woman is skeptical, but we hope Williams follows through. We all make mistakes, but that one was a doozy, a grown-up version of playground bullying.


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