Montel Williams, the talk-show host and spokesman for PhRMA's Partnership for Prescription Assistance, lashed out at a 17-year-old intern from a Savannah, GA, newspaper at an event for the patient assistance program.
In a videotaped interview Friday at the Westin Savannah Harbor, the Savannah Morning News intern asked Williams if he thought pharma companies would cut R&D if their profits were restricted – a question she'd come up with in discussion with her AP English teacher. Williams, she reported, said: “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 Savannah Morning News reported, Williams snapped his fingers and stalked off. But later, as the intern and her colleagues were setting up for an unrelated assignment at the same hotel, Williams spotted her and, the paper's web content producer said, “walked up with his bodyguard and 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.'”
Later that day, Williams issued a statement apologizing for what he characterized as a “misunderstanding.” “I mistakenly thought the reporter and photographer in question were at the hotel to confront me about some earlier comments. I was wrong and I apologize for my overreaction.”
PhRMA SVP Ken Johnson told the paper that Williams, who suffers from multiple sclerosis, thought the newspaper crew was there to provoke him, but was wrong to blow his stack. “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.”