OPRAH AND DR. PHIL AT WAR

Published on: April 27, 2005
OPRAH AND DR. PHIL AT WAR

Dr. Phil is set to break free from Oprah Winfrey in a bitter clash of the daytime TV superstars.

The tough-talking psychologist wants to escape the grasp of chat show queen Oprah and branch out on his own.

Oprah, 51, gave Dr. Phil, 54, his big break after inviting him for a string of guest appearances and helped his self-help spin-off become a huge hit.

But The National Enquirer can reveal that Oprah's role as executive producer and the control she holds over the Dr. Phil Show through her Harpo Productions company has strained their once fast friendship. Now friends say the two barely talk.

"Although Phil will always be grateful to Oprah for launching his career, he feels he has repaid her many times over and now it is time to cut the cord," said an insider.

The afternoon heavyweights met when Oprah hired Dr. Phil to be her strategist after she was taken to court by Texas ranchers over her claims she would never eat beef again because of mad cow disease. The psychologist helped her win the case and ended up getting his own show. It didn't come without strings, however -- Oprah has the power to nix any Dr Phil show she doesn't like and her protégé's contract stipulates that he cannot air a competing show at the same time as Oprah airs hers.

Oprah is said to have become increasingly annoyed at her former pal's aggressive attitude and his attempts to bring his wife, Robin, 51, and son, Jay, 25, in on his act by using them to counsel guests.

Oprah even criticized his decision to endorse a line of nutritional products, saying it was "not a choice I would have made for myself."

Their private feud burst into the open when Dr. Phil was sparring with one of his feisty guests, opinionated former Apprentice contestant Omarosa Manigault-Stallworth, and told her he planned to buy back the rights to his show this summer.

In an exclusive interview with the The National Enquirer, Omarosa told how Dr. Phil erupted in anger while she was filming an appearance for his May 2 sweeps show.

"During a break Dr. Phil asked me about any upcoming projects I have pending and I mentioned how much control everyone wants to have over you," said Omarosa.

"Dr. Phil said immediately, 'I sure do understand about control.'

"I was surprised by his attitude and said, 'But you have the best situation working for Oprah Winfrey.'

"He said, 'Not for long! After we are finished with this season I am going to buy back my show from Oprah. I want to control my own show, do things my way for a change.'"

Publicists for both Oprah and Dr. Phil failed to reply to calls for comment on the split.