Fox's Ablow regularly 'diagnoses' Obama
NEW YORK (AP) — Over the years, psychiatrist Keith Ablow has diagnosed President Barack Obama as a man with abandonment issues dating back to his upbringing, a person with a victim's mentality who secretly identifies more with Africa than America.
There's no evidence that Ablow has actually treated the president. Yet the Fox News Channel analyst freely mixes psychiatric assessments with political criticism, a unique twist in the realm of cable news commentary that some medical colleagues find unethical.
Even some natural political allies object, although Tim Graham of the conservative Media Research Center noted in an interview that Obama's predecessor, George W. Bush, was frequently criticized by journalists and political foes who speculated on "daddy issues" with his presidential father.
"Activists of all stripes should be able to agree that psychologizing from afar is not a strong suit of the media," Graham said.
The 52-year-old Ablow, who has psychiatric practices in Massachusetts and New York and teaches at Tufts University, wasn't available to talk about his Fox role, his office said. Fox representatives didn't respond to requests for interviews.
He's been a Fox contributor since 2007 after hosting a failed syndicated talk show. Identified as a member of the Fox News Medical A-Team, he hosts a regular segment about behavior titled "Normal or Nuts?" on the "Fox & Friends" morning show. There were published reports this fall that the network had extended his contract.
Rival news networks CNN and MSNBC say they don't have a psychiatrist-commentator under contract. CNN said the closest thing it has to something similar is when profilers come on the air to discuss the mental characteristics of people who commit dramatic crimes, for example. The network said medical experts don't get into politics, but others can have different interpretations. The MRC's Graham said opinion often drifts in when television medical correspondents comment on aspects of Obama's health care plan.
Ablow clearly enjoys being provocative, and his commentaries don't stick to his areas of medical expertise. Within the past two weeks he called for an "American jihad," saying the country should urge all nations to adopt a government form based on the U.S. Constitution. His comment this summer that Michelle Obama "needs to drop a few" pounds was widely noticed.
His armchair analyses of Obama have included:
—Suggesting Obama wasn't doing enough to protect the U.S. from Ebola because "how can you protect a country you don't like?" He attempted to speak from "deep inside the president's psyche" to explain the supposed dislike. Obama's "affinities" were with Africa and "not us," he said last month on John Gibson's Fox radio show.
—Saying in June that Obama wants America to dissolve. "He's not the closer," he said on Fox's "Outnumbered," ''unless the American people want to commit suicide as a nation and he's the guy who will push you off a cliff. Spoken as a psychiatrist."
—Suggesting in a Fox column after Russia's invasion of Crimea that in Obama, Vladimir Putin had found someone as interested in disempowering the United States as he was.
—Saying on "Fox & Friends" that Obama sees himself as the "victim-in-chief," an attitude related to abandonment by his father in childhood and his mother briefly leaving him with his grandparents.
—Saying on Lou Dobbs' Fox Business Channel show that Obama had "severed himself from all core emotions."
Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman, chairman of psychiatry at Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons, said Ablow seems more interested in entertaining than in reflecting well on his profession. Lieberman is past president of the American Psychiatric Association, which discourages members from speculating on psychiatric characteristics of non-patients.
"It is shameful and unfortunate that he is given a platform by Fox News or any other media organization," Lieberman said. "Basically he is a narcissistic self-promoter of limited and dubious expertise."
Ablow isn't an APA member, having resigned in 2011 in a dispute over transgenderism.
It's not unusual for there to be an uncomfortable relationship between the medical community and doctors who get into television. Talk show hosts Dr. Phil and Dr. Oz have their critics. Dr. Drew Pinsky took heat for exposing rehab patients to the pressure of a televised recovery.
While doctors are entitled to political opinions like anyone else, the way Ablow tries to connect his views to medical analysis "is really just irresponsible and it's embarrassing for physicians in general," said Ford Vox, a staff psychiatrist at the Shepherd Brain Injury Rehabilitation Center in Atlanta.
Ablow has occasionally taken heat from Fox colleagues about his commentaries. Greg Gutfeld of "The Five" said that "we should probably avoid blaming people for tragedies," in response to Ablow's criticism of Obama on Ebola. And the four women co-hosts of "Outnumbered" clearly didn't appreciate the attack on the first lady's weight, made in context of her efforts to promote healthy eating.
It's not clear whether Ablow has drawn any blood from his intended target. Jay Carney, former Obama press secretary, said he wasn't even sure who he is.
"I'm confident that no one in the White House spends any time thinking about him," Carney said. "Fox is Fox. It doesn't really matter who the salesman is. The product is always the same."
Follow David Bauder at twitter.com/dbauder. His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/david-bauder