Did Dr. Phil show push "hot sauce mom" into committing child abuse?
I got an interesting call Wednesday from Bill McAllister, a TV reporter in Alaska covering the case of Jessica Beagley -- the so-called "hot sauce mom" convicted of child abuse in using that condiment and cold showers to discipline her child.
Beagley was investigated after she appeared on the Dr. Phil show, revealing a homemade video tape showing her disciplining her son by making him eat hot sauce and stand in the shower. After her conviction Wednesday, McAllister called with an interesting question.
Saying that prosecutors believed the act of videotaping the child for the show was the action which crossed into child abuse, he wanted to know: Was the Dr. Phil show culpable morally or ethically?
Answering that, however, requires a key bit of information not yet known: Did the show's producers encourage Beagley to discipline her child more harshly to get on television?
The question arises because Beagley was passed over in her attempts to get on the show in 2009. Reportedly, the second time she tried, producers asked for video of her disciplining her child to determine if she'd make the cut.
In an era of 19 and Counting and Kate Plus 8, this is nothing new. Parents have been using their odd situations with the children to get onto TV talk shows and unscripted programs for many years, and critics like me have been dinging producers for creating an atmosphere where people with compromised decision-making abilities are drawn into unfortunate acts.
When a community college dropout like Snooki Polizzi can earn a six-figure salary embarrassing herself on camera, the bar gets seriously raised for what people will do to get on camera.
Indeed, you can draw a straight line from Phil Donahue exploring nooks and crannies of American life to the freak show antics of guests on The Jerry Springer Show and the boom in unscripted so-called "reality TV" shows today. If videotaping extreme situations involving children for national television is child abuse, the producers of America's Funniest Home Videos better get really good lawyers.
What do you think?McAllister report is below: