Speed Reads

'false equivalency'

Dr. Phil equates coronavirus fatalities to swimming pool deaths, gets numbers very wrong

First it was Dr. Oz, and now it's Dr. Phil.

After Oz stirred up controversy this week with his comments about reopening schools amid the coronavirus pandemic, TV's Phil McGraw, who isn't licensed and has a doctorate in psychology, appeared on Laura Ingraham's Fox News show Thursday to dismiss the importance of lockdown measures during the public health crisis.

"There's a point at which people start having enough problems in lockdown that it will actually create more destruction and actually more death across time than the actual virus will itself," he claimed.

Dr. Phil went on to misleadingly compare the number of deaths from COVID-19 in the United States to deaths from other causes, failing to acknowledge that these aren't contagious like the coronavirus or that the COVID-19 death toll would be higher without lockdown measures while also getting the numbers wrong.

"The fact of the matter is ... 45,000 people a year die from automobile accidents, 480,000 from cigarettes, 360,000 a year from swimming pools, but we don't shut the country down for that, but yet we're doing it for this?" he asked.

If that statistic on swimming pool deaths sounds way too high, that's because it is. The Wrap notes data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that from 2005 through 2014, an average of 3,536 people a year died from unintentional drowning in the United States, and that's not specific to swimming pools.

Dr. Phil was widely criticized for his Fox News appearance, with MSNBC's Mika Brzezinski calling the statements "dangerous" and The Washington Examiner's Jay Caruso sarcastically writing, "Those highly contagious car crashes and swimming pools are tough."

Ingraham had McGraw on her show not long after she interviewed Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who specifically warned Ingraham against a "misleading" argument about the pandemic. The Washington Post notes Fauci previously said comparing car accident deaths to coronavirus deaths is a "false equivalency." Brendan Morrow