By Rachel Yang
April 17, 2020 at 08:31 AM EDT
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Credit: Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images

Another television doctor is in hot water due to his comments on COVID-19.

Dr. Phil was heavily criticized following his Thursday appearance on Laura Ingraham's Fox News show where he seemed to downplay the seriousness of the coronavirus.

The TV host, whose real name is Phil McGraw, criticized government officials' orders to temporarily close certain businesses and instructing people to stay inside. He said these measures slowed down the economy and worsened poverty.

"The economy is crashing around us and they're doing that because people are dying because of coronavirus," he said. McGraw then argued that there are deaths each year due to automobiles, cigarettes, and swimming pools, "but we don't shut the country down for that."

He continued, "But yet we doing it for this? And the fallout is going to last for years because people's lives are being destroyed."

Dr. Phil's comments come after President Donald Trump has repeatedly said millions of Americans could have died from the virus if nothing was done to stop its spread. “Think of the number — potentially 2.2 million people if we did nothing, if we didn’t do the distancing, if we didn’t do all of the things that we’re doing,” the president told reporters on Sunday.

Meanwhile, the White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx said Monday that she projects 100,000 to 200,000 American deaths from the virus as a best-case scenario. Birx echoed projections from Dr. Anthony Fauci that 1.6 million to 2.2 million Americans could die if the country did "nothing" to contain the outbreak, adding that even "if we do things almost perfectly" America could see 200,000 casualties from the novel coronavirus.

Social media users swiftly criticized Dr. Phil's logic, including Rosanna Arquette, W. Kamau Bell, and Soledad O'Brien. Many also pointed out that other TV doctors like Dr. Drew and Dr. Oz have also recently made ill-informed comments about COVID-19.

One commenter also sarcastically wrote, "Car crashes are extremely contagious."

"It appears that Dr. Phil, Dr. Oz and Dr. Drew attended Trump University Medical School together," a parody account tweeted.

TV writer Mike Drucker pointed out that McGraw is not a medical doctor. "He has a PhD in clinical psychology, but he currently has no license to practice psychology in any state," Drucker tweeted. Dr. Phil has his doctorate in clinical psychology but is no longer a licensed psychologist in the state of Texas, per his website.

This week, Mehmet Oz, who hosts the daytime show Dr. Oz, apologized after saying on Fox News that the U.S. should reopen schools even if a small number of people die. A day later, the surgeon posted a video on Twitter, saying, "My comments on risks around opening schools have confused and upset people, which was never my intention. I misspoke."

Drew Pinsky, who's known for hosting shows like Loveline and 16 and Pregnant as Dr. Drew, also came under fire for saying the coronavirus wasn't bad as the flu and claiming that the odds of dying from coronavirus were less than being hit by an asteroid. He later apologized, saying that he "got it wrong."

For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDCWHO, and local public health departments and visit our coronavirus hub.

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