The mother of Nova Scotia teenager Rehtaeh Parsons is filming a segment on the U.S. talk show Dr. Phil, hours after the television therapist triggered an onslaught of criticism with a tweet asking if it is OK to have sex with a drunk girl.

Leah Parsons will be appearing on the program months after her daughter, who was from Cole Harbour, died following a suicide attempt.

Two 18-year-olds have been charged with child pornography in connection with the case and will be back in court in September. They can't be named because they were 17 at the time of the alleged offences.

According to Rehtaeh's parents, four boys sexually assaulted their daughter at a house party when she was 15. She was then said to have been mocked by classmates, enduring relentless harassment and humiliation after a digital photo of the incident was circulated at school and on social media.

Phil McGraw, who dispenses advice via his afternoon talk show, tweeted: "If a girl is drunk, is it OK to have sex with her? Reply yes or no to @drphil #teensaccused" to more than 1.1 million followers.

A spokeswoman apologized Wednesday afternoon. "This tweet was intended to evoke discussion leading into a very serious show topic based upon a recent news story, hence the #teensaccused label," Stacey Luchs said in an email to CBC News.

She described it as a "research post" in preparation for a show. "Dr. Phil believes that the position of those incapacitated in any fashion — be it drugs, alcohol, age or mental illness —cannot and do not have the capacity to give their consent to anything, especially sex, which could have life-changing repercussions," Luchs added.

McGraw deleted the tweet as soon as he saw it, she said.

Online anger

The question garnered a mix of disgust and anger.


American talk show host Phil McGraw sent a controversial tweet about the Rehtaeh Parsons case that attracted intense online reaction.

"You know good and goddamn well that 'asking' when a girl 'deserves' to be raped is a destructive question in itself," tweeted user Rad-Femme Lawyer.

"Why are you looking for a greenlight to rape from Twitter," said @SettlerColonial.

Eventually, #drphilquestions began trending online.

"Is it OK to blame @Oprah for the monster that she has created? #drphilquestions," wrote Twitter user @Ebje.

Family trying to educate massive audience

Rehtaeh’s father, Glen Canning, said her mother is in Hollywood for the show. He said the family wants to educate a wider audience about their story.

"I know there's a lot of controversy going around it right now, but to me I couldn't read that tweet without getting lost into the simple fact the answer to that question, 'Is it OK to have sex with a drunk girl,' at least according to the police in our daughter Rehtaeh Parsons's case, was yes," Canning said. "I think it's disgusting.

"I think consent is an important conversation we need to have. I think clearly we're not having it as often as we should, especially with young men."

Canning said he provided the show with photos of his daughter, who died in April.

Parsons pre-taped part of her appearance on Wednesday and is shooting another segment before a live audience on Thursday.

According to her Facebook feed, she's feeling nervous about the appearance.

"Time to get up and get ready for the first part of the Dr. Phil show. They tape the 'getting to know you' portion first. Then tomorrow live. Deep breaths!" she wrote.

"Now the hard part ... keeping myself together emotionally and what to wear!"

Calls to Leah Parsons and her partner Jason Barnes weren't returned.


  • An earlier version of this article used the wrong Twitter name for @SettlerColonial.
    Aug 21, 2013 9:02 PM AT