TV show hosts that treat their guests like trash

If we've learned anything from the scandal involving Ellen DeGeneres, the "Queen of Nice," nothing we hear or see from talk show hosts should surprise us. We've almost gotten to the point where we expect superstar presenters like DeGeneres to turn into nightmares behind the scenes, regardless of how pleasant they appear on camera. Yet, unlike the accusations against DeGeneres's series, some TV show hosts' alleged behavior is made public knowledge sooner rather than later.

Now, viewers like to see conflict. It's all around us, and we've been conditioned to thirst for it. Our reality TV shows centerpiece it, our news networks headline it, and political parties use it in their platforms to gain votes. It only makes sense that TV hosts would weaponize conflict to gain viewers. They each have different ways of doing this, but it seems the most common method is to simply act like a jerk to guests. In the past, this has led to some epic on-screen battles, but it's also paved the way to scandal and controversy. 

Some TV show hosts' horrible behavior happens in front of the cameras, while others reportedly wait until they have stopped rolling before they terrorize their guests. There are acts of sheer ignorance, cunning, and blatant disrespect. We look at all kinds. Here are the TV show hosts that treat their guests like trash.

Tucker Carlson does not worry about being polite

Tucker Carlson rarely hides his animosity toward his guests, and apparently, the Fox News personality doesn't need to. Thanks to his fans and his haters, viewers have turned him into a ratings giant, with many tuning in to see what he might say and how he might react at any given time. What they've seen has been nothing short of amazing. He's called guests names, he's refused to accept guests' answers (no matter how simply they've been spelled out), and he's questioned the credentials of academics.

But Carlson's incessant combativeness has not been the worst of his alleged mistreatment of guests. According to Cathy Areu, a former guest on Tucker Carlson Tonight, the married talk show host made inappropriate advances toward her. In a July 2020 complaint filed in federal court (via Vulture), Areu alleged that the show's tech crew would not let her leave the set until Carlson had a chance to ask her if she wanted to go to a hotel room with him. She shut down this invitation, and she was asked back to the program only a few more times.

In response, Fox News stated (via Vulture) that an "independent investigation" determined there was "no merit" to Areu's "claims against FOX News ...Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity & Howard Kurtz and its contributor Gianno Caldwell." The network additionally described Areu's allegations as "false, patently frivolous and utterly devoid of any merit."

As of this writing, Areu's lawsuit is pending. 

Dr. Phil's 'tough love' approach has come under fire

Dr. Phil McGraw's show has been on the air since 2002, so he must be doing something right. Over the span of those years, however, he has found himself in hot water a few times. Using what the New York Post calls "scumbag tactics," McGraw attempts to create the most compelling interviews by challenging his guests. The "tough love" approach has been criticized by many in the mental health community, but it hasn't moved him from his position. Even when his approaches have backfired spectacularly, he still soldiers on. 

In 2017, guest Kaden Mahaffa was roundly mocked on Dr. Phil's stage for her beliefs that she had psychic and savant abilities. She claimed the experience caused a mental breakdown, which resulted in her being committed to a mental health facility, as per TMZMahaffa later sued McGraw and CBS for "emotional distress and fraud," claiming she'd been duped into the appearance under the guise that she would be discussing "the alleged abuse her boyfriend went through by his mother and grandmother," according to Courthouse News. As of this writing, the lawsuit is pending. 

Perhaps the most questionable treatment of a guest was McGraw's 2016 interview with Shelley Duvall. McGraw appeared to sensationalize the actor's mental health, even promoting some of the more bizarre moments from their talk. The backlash was fierce, including from Stanley Kubrick's daughter Vivian Kubrick, the daughter of Duvall's former director from The Shining. She called Dr. Phil an "utterly heartless form of entertainment." 

'Human bear-baiting' happened on Jeremy Kyle's show

For 14 seasons, The Jeremy Kyle Show ran and attracted millions of viewers, with the host, Jeremy Kyle, leaning into his reputation for being rather contentious. That tactic eventually spiraled out of control. In 2019, the show came to a screeching halt, starting with a suspension which was followed by a complete cancellation. This backlash arrived following the death of Steve Dymond, a former guest who died of apparent suicide after a lie detector on the show revealed that he had been unfaithful to his girlfriend, per The Scottish Sun.

Dymond's death was a tragic fallout from Kyle's common on-air tactics, what one judge called "human bear-baiting" during an trial for a different on-air assault that occurred between two guests. As The New York Times noted, the host often had an adversarial relationship with his guests, and the show embraced controversy. After Craig Platt learned on a 2008 episode via DNA testing that he was not the father of his wife's child, he pointed an air rifle at her head. His wife, Jane, told News of the World (via North Wales Live) that her husband "was pushed over the edge by the show." She called for the show's cancellation and demanded Kyle "take some responsibility."

After Dymond's death, a spokesperson for Prime Minister Theresa May addressed The Jeremy Kyle Show. "Broadcasters and production companies have a responsibility for the mental health and well-being of participants and viewers," they said to the BBC. "We are clear they must have appropriate levels of support in place."

If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text HOME to the Crisis Text Line at 741741.

Matt Lauer asked celebrities uncomfortable questions

Countless headlines have been made about Matt Lauer's alleged sexual misconduct towards female coworkers. He lost his Today gig and his career. But there were others who were allegedly subjected to mistreatment, including guests. Lauer peppered multiple celebrities with uncomfortable questions during his time on the morning program, and they're worth a second look.

Take his 2009 interview with Sandra Bullock, where Lauer apparently struggled to talk about anything other than a scene in The Proposal where the actor is partially nude. In 2012, Lauer spoke to Anne Hathaway during her promotional run for Les Misérables. He opened the conversation with, "Nice to see you, seen a lot of you lately," creepily referring to a wardrobe malfunction that happened at the movie's premiere. He then appears to pass judgment, asking, "What's the lesson learned from something like that?"

There's also his 2017 interview with Corey Feldman about allegations regarding pedophilia and child stars, a topic the actor has talked about for years. Lauer wondered why his guest would go on Today when he could be "sitting down with the police right now," which prompted Feldman to defend himself. "I told the police," he said. "In fact, if anyone wants to go back to 1993, when I was interviewed by the Santa Barbara Police Department, I sat there and I gave them the names. They're on record." Lauer asked why he hadn't gone to authorities "now again," and Feldman cited the statute of limitations in California. 

Some of Barbara Walters's interviews don't age well

Barbara Walters is a legendary host who has been in the Television Academy Hall of Fame since 1989, and her long career has had its share of eyebrow-raising moments. It might be that her power and legacy has allowed her to say things that others might not dare, as well as evade much criticism for these deeds.

As an example, during Walters' 1991 interview with Bette Midler, the singer shockingly claimed that "Geraldo and his producer came to do an interview with me in the 70s, the early 70s. They pushed me into my bathroom. They broke two poppers and pushed them under my nose and and proceeded to grope me." In response to this accusation, Walters laughed and said, "Well, let's go onto other things, shall we?" (Rivera later denied the accusation and claimed Midler was upset over a tell-all book he wrote about his romantic conquests.) 

On a 2013 episode of The View, Walters clashed with another guest. As Corey Feldman spoke with the panel about allegations regarding pedophilia and Hollywood, the host questioned the cost of his claims. "Are you saying that they're pedophiles?" she asked. "And that they're still in this business?" When Feldman, who identifies as a victim, answered yes and suggested that "They don't want me here right now. They want me dead," Walters visibly recoiled and rolled her eyes. "You're damaging an entire industry," she said, prompting Feldman to apologize.

Complaints have been filed against Bill O'Reilly

For years, Bill O'Reilly was the leader of cable news programs. He rose to the top with his crass way of dealing with guests. The former host of The O'Reilly Factor had a short fuse and would blow up if guests challenged him or seemed to get the better of him in a debate. There are countless clips and montages of his aggressive tactics the show, which was cancelled in 2017. It could be argued, given the ratings, that O'Reilly acted this way to drive up his numbers. This attitude was all put out to the world, and the world devoured it.

What was apparently hidden below the surface, however, was also vile. According to The New York Times, a former guest on The O'Reilly Factor, Wendy Walsh, alleged that O'Reilly made a pass at her after he offered her a role at the network. She rejected him, and he allegedly rescinded the offer. Walsh said of O'Reilly's behavior, "I feel bad that some of these old guys are using mating strategies that were acceptable in the 1950s and are not acceptable now. ... I hope young men can learn from this." Juliet Huddy, another guest of the show, also accused O'Reilly of inappropriately pursuing a sexual relationship with her and trying to kiss her. O'Reilly has consistently denied all claims of sexual harassment and misconduct, and both Walsh's and Huddy's complaints against O'Reilly were settled out of court.

Guests spoke out about Tavis Smiley's behavior

In legal documents obtained by Deadline, PBS ordered an investigation into Tavis Smiley's conduct while employed with the network after they received numerous complaints about his behavior and activities. The host of Tavis Smiley reportedly engaged in inappropriate conduct with multiple women, including guests that were on his show. According to NBC News, one guest from 2008 and 2009 alleged that she had a sexual relationship with Smiley. She claimed that, while it was consensual, she "uncomfortably went with [sexual contact]" with him because "women are put in a bad position when their boss hits on them." She told the investigator that she was not asked to return to the show.

In the end, Smiley was fired in 2017. In March 2020, he was ordered to pay PBS nearly $1.5 million for breaching their "morality clause." The network's lawyer, Grace Speights, explained how the host's position on the show and in the company created a challenging dynamic for women. "You can't have a consensual relationship between a manager and a subordinate because of the power dynamic," she said (via Variety). "It's never consensual because that manager has power over all aspects of that person's employment." 

While Smiley has denied the allegations, a judge further upped the amount due to PBS to $2.6 million in August 2020. In a statement from his reps, Smiley said, "I look forward to my day in court February 10, which I have finally been granted, after 2 years of fighting."

There's lots of yelling on Sean Hannity's show

Like some of his other Fox News peers, Sean Hannity often speaks over his guests loudly and proudly. For example, take his interview with Palestinian-American writer Yousef Munayyer, who was on the show to discuss the struggle between Israel and Palestine. As his guest attempted to address the inquiry, Hannity repeatedly yelled, "What part of this can't you get through your thick head?" But one of his most contentious encounters was with guest Patricia Bynes, a Ferguson committeewoman who was outspoken about the death of Michael Brown, who was shot and killed by police.

After asking how Bynes could be sure police used excessive force since she was not present at the shooting, Hannity interrupted her explanation by saying, "Let me educate you about the legal system in America." He continued, "You can try to talk over me, but let tell you — our system of justice, a person is innocent until proven guilty." 

Hannity's alleged off-air behavior also made former guest Cathy Areu uncomfortable. According to a legal complaint she filed against Fox News (via Vulture), the host allegedly offered money to the show's staff to take Areu out on a date. After that awkward event, Areu claims she was "hardly ever, if ever at all" invited to come back as a guest. As previously mentioned, Areu's lawsuit is still ongoing, and Fox News denies any wrongdoing by Hannity, per the results of "an independent investigation conducted by an outside law firm." 

A journalist claimed Chris Matthews crossed the line

For more than 20 years, Chris Matthews hosted Hardball on MSNBC. In that time, the veteran host was never shy about commenting on the looks of his female guests. There are video montages that document his comments over the years, and examples of his inappropriate behavior date back to 1999. In a 2017 piece from The Daily Caller, one Hardball producer claimed Matthews regularly rated the looks of the women who appeared on his program, going so far as to declare the "hottest of the week."

While this drew criticism for Matthews, his reign on television remained unaltered until freelance journalist and columnist Laura Bassett shared her personal story about the host in GQ. She claimed that when she was on Matthews's show in 2016, he said to her, "Why haven't I fallen in love with you yet?" Matthews allegedly did not stop after the initial comment. "Keep putting makeup on her, I'll fall in love with her," he told the makeup artist. On another occasion, Matthews allegedly asked Bassett if she was "going out tonight" and then instructed a makeup artist to "wipe this off her face after the show." He allegedly continued, "We don't make her up so some guy at a bar can look at her like this." 

Bassett initially shared this story in 2017 but didn't name names out of fear for her career. Shortly after she published her piece in 2020, Matthews announced his retirement and later told Vanity Fair that Bassett's complaints about his behavior were "highly justified."

Tragedy struck after an episode of Nancy Grace's show

Nancy Grace is an acquired taste. For many of her guests over the years, her style of questioning, her opinions, and her timing have all been questionable. Because of this, she's been at a center of a few controversies throughout her lengthy career. In 2006, years after her kidnapping, Elizabeth Smart was a guest on Nancy Grace to promote the passing of a new sex offender bill. The host, however, simply wanted to rehash Smart's traumatic experience. Grace prodded her with questions and scenarios from that time, despite Smart's very obvious discomfort

In 2006, Grace forcefully questioned Melinda Duckett about the disappearance of her two-year-old son, Trenton. She even accused the mother of hiding information. The next day, Duckett died by suicide, leading the woman's family to file a lawsuit against the show host. According to ABC News, the case was settled out of court, with Grace paying $200,000 to establish a trust dedicated to finding the missing boy. Additionally, Duckett's lawyers stated, "The parties now agree that Nancy Grace, the producers of her program, and CNN engaged in no intentional wrongdoing in the course of dedicating a program to finding the missing toddler, as alleged in the lawsuit." 

A member of Duckett's family, however, disagrees with that assessment. "Nancy Grace and the others, they just bashed her to the end," Bill Eubank, Duckett's grandfather, said afterward.

If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text HOME to the Crisis Text Line at 741741.