Montel Williams, the talk-show host and spokesman for PhRMA's Partnership for Prescription Assistance, generated some unwelcome publicity when he lashed out at a 17-year-old intern from a Savannah, GA, newspaper at a November event for the patient assistance program.
In a videotaped interview at a local hotel, the Savannah Morning News intern asked Williams if he thought pharma companies would cut R&D if their profits were restricted. Williams, she said, replied: “I'm trying to figure out exactly why you are here and what the interview is about.” After asking her if she suffered from any illness, he added: “I'm here as a patient advocate talking about the fact that medications available today are saving people's lives, that's what saving mine and after that, this interview is done.”
With that, the paper reported, he snapped his fingers and stalked off. But later, as the intern and her colleagues were setting up for another assignment at the hotel, Williams spotted her and, the paper's web content producer said, “got in [her] face pointing his finger and telling her, ‘Don't look at me like that. Do you know who I am? I'm a big star, and I can look you up, find where you live and blow you up.'” Williams issued a statement apologizing for what he characterized as an overreaction.
PhRMA SVP Ken Johnson told the paper that Williams, who suffers from MS, thought the crew was there to provoke him. “Most people have no idea of the pain he suffers because of MS,” said Johnson. “But even on bad days, bad behavior is not acceptable.”