A complaint filed by popular TV personality Dr. Ian Smith alleges ViacomCBS and production company Stage 29 Productions are allowing concerns of race discrimination to go unchecked.
Smith is the former host of the popular daytime show “The Doctors.” In the complaint filed in New York, with the State Division of Human Rights and U.S. Equal Employment Commission, he alleges show producers ignored his concerns regarding diversity among staff and guests.
“‘The Doctors’ show has an extremely hostile work environment,” said Smith to The Los Angeles Times. “It has a tremendous disregard for diversity and it is extremely abusive to those who speak up with concerns about behavior or about the culture of inequity.”
The syndicated show that boasts 13 seasons is owned by Jay McGraw, son of “Dr. Phil” host Phil McGraw. He also owns Stage 29 Productions. Smith became the show’s host in 2013, but things were anything but ideal. Smith claims when speaking with producer about the need for more guests of color he was met with, “We have you as the host. That’s what matters.”
He also alleged that other Black co-hosts were paid less than their white colleagues. He brought his concerns to producers and as a result was not asked to return to the show until 2020. The accomplished author claims “The Doctors” executive producer Patty Ciano reached out to him about returning to the show to boost diversity as the country dealt with its on social reckoning. That offer was reaffirmed when McGraw reached out saying Smith’s return would be an “important step for the show to take.” Under the impression that things on the show may be different this time around, he agreed to return.
And while Smith says he “believes in second chances,” what he returned to was a show with 23 producers, of those only three were Black, and excuses as to why more diversity measures were not being taken.
“They thought having Dr. Ian as the face of the show exempted them from diversity,” said Smith’s attorney Rick Ostrove. Still determined to move the needle of diversity Smith continued to suggest various guests of color. He claims his efforts were met with questions about the guests’ competence and ability to speak intelligently to the show’s audience, pushback Smith insinuates was not an issue when suggesting white guests for the show. But that’s not all: Smith also insinuates that guests with ties to McGraw’s company were booked for appearances without issue.
The final straw however occurred over a Zoom meeting when Smith claims to have overhead white producers say, “Just because he’s Black, he thinks he can talk to a guest like that.” Smith had been in conversation with “Married to Medicine” star Dr. Jacqueline Walters when the comment was made. He brought his concerns to an executive producer who dismissed it as being the result of a long week.
Less than a week later Smith was informed his services were no longer needed on the show, an act he and his attorney both believe was retaliatory. In his complaint, Smith alleges he was axed from the show following the string of complaints about diversity and for addressing the disparaging comments.
“Even after Dr. Ian’s complaints, CBS did nothing to remedy the situation and instead fire him. If my client didn’t complain about racism, he would still be the host of ‘The Doctors,’” said Ostrove.
Smith — who is a graduate of Harvard College, Columbia University and University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine — has brought his expertise in rehabilitation and physical medicine to several reality and daytime talk shows since the early 2000s.
This isn’t Smith’s first time ripping a daytime talk show host. In May he made equally bold accusations about the “Tamron Hall” show when he claimed Black guests were seldom invited to showcase their intelligence or expertise in “sociology or medicine or law.”
“They will bring on Black experts when they do something salacious or they’re in the headlines for doing something bad. Then they’ll bring Black people on to talk about that,” explained Smith while appearing on “The Karen Hunter Show.”
Smith went on to claim that Hall’s executive producer requests that publicists only pitch their white clients for appearances on the show, that way audience won’t confuse the “Tamron Hall” show as being only for Black people.
“I’m putting this show on blast because when white shows and hosts don’t let us on we criticize them, but the same criticism has to be held when a show is helmed and hosted by Black people that keep us off the airwaves and it’s just not right,” he said.