The tabloid television talk show Dr. Phil, which debuted in 2002, has long used polygraphs as a ratings gimmick, especially during Nielsen sweeps, a rating period that is especially important for advertising revenue. For years, the show’s primary polygraph operator was retired FBI special agent Jack Trimarco.
However, Trimarco died in 2018, and for some time after that, it seems the Dr. Phil show did not feature any polygraph examinations. That has changed.
On 29-30 October 2020, the first two days of Nielsen’s November sweeps, the Dr. Phil show ran a two-part episode featuring polygraph operator John Leo Grogan, whom show host Phil McGraw introduced as “one of the most respected polygraph examiners in the country.”
That John Grogan is “one of the most respected polygraph examiners in the country” would have been a shock to Jack Trimarco. In a 7 March 2008 phone call to the Tom Leykis Show, a Los Angeles-based radio program on which Grogan was a guest, Trimarco denounced Grogan as a fraud. AntiPolygraph.org has transcribed that call:
Tom Leykis: Here’s Jack on the Tom Leykis show. Hello.
Jack Trimarco: Hello, this is Jack.
Leykis: I know. I just said that.
Trimarco: [muted laughter]. Well, Tom, I honestly, I haven’t been listening to your show but my, my phone has lit up. My name is Jack Trimarco. I’m a retired FBI agent. I’m former head of the polygraph unit for the FBI in Los Angeles for seven years, former inspector general for the Department of Energy’s polygraph program for two, currently chairman of the ethics committee for [the] California Association of Polygraph Examiners.
John Grogan is a fake. He is not a polygraph examiner. He is quite accurately known as the polygraph parasite. He’s been convicted of twenty-six counts of fraud and had his P.I. license pulled from him, and he simply became a world-known polygraph examiner. It’s all B.S. He never graduated from a polygraph school, and everyone knows him for what he is, and I can’t believe he has the things to go on a radio show, have people like me listen, and expect not to be disclosed.
John Grogan: I think Jack’s hair dye is getting to him. I have never been convicted of any such thing. What, what—
Trimarco: John, do you still have a P.I. license?
Grogan: Wow. Wow.
Trimarco: John, do you still have a P.I. license?
Grogan: No, but [it] has nothing to do with fraud. Jack—
Trimarco: You know what, that’s a lie, too.
Grogan: Oh, my God! Well, Jack—
Trimarco: Contact your lawyers and sue me.
Grogan: Jack, why don’t you bring in proof to Tom Leykis that I’ve been convicted of one count of fraud, let alone twenty-six.
Trimarco: Twenty-six counts of fraud.
Trimarco: The state of California pulled your P.I. license, and you’re violating that by claiming to be a polygraph examiner. It’s complete fraud, John. You’re, you’re an embarrassment to the law enforcement community, and you’re an embarrassment to the polygraph—the real polygraph—examiners of the world. You’re nothing more than a fraud. And you’re about to get burned.
Grogan: Bring in your proof to Tom Leykis
Trimarco: I’ll bring in my proof to the D.A. in Ventura County on Tuesday morning, John. You perjured yourself. You swore under oath about things that you aren’t, and I’m going to get you convicted.
Grogan: Okay, Jack.
Leykis: Well, well, well. Where do you go from there. I’ll tell you what. We’ll take a break, and we’ll figure out where we go from there. You don’t want to go anywhere!
After the call, Grogan dismissed Trimarco as “just another jealous competitor.”
Trimarco was not alone in his criticism of Grogan. In 2007 and 2008, polygraph operator Ralph Hilliard, proprietor of the website PolygraphPlace.com, alleged a litany of wrongdoing by Grogan in a pair of articles respectively titled, “Is John Grogan a Polygraph Parasite?” and “John Grogan – Part II: Imposter? Yes! Swindler? Definitely! Polygraph Examiner? Not by any Stretch of the Imagination.”
Grogan subsequently filed what seems to have been an abortive lawsuit against Jack Trimarco, Ralph Hilliard, and the late Joseph Paolella, a former U.S. Secret Service polygraph operator from whom Grogan had received some polygraph training.
Jack Trimarco was not wrong when he called John Grogan a fraud. But the fact is that all polygraph operators are frauds. Polygraphy is a thoroughly discredited pseudoscience that is inherently biased against the truthful yet easy for liars to beat using simple, effective countermeasures that polygraph operators have no demonstrated ability to detect.
Phil McGraw, who has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology, should be embarrassed and ashamed for misleading his audience about the validity of polygraphy, all for the sake of ratings.
Judging the accuracy of a polyghraph examination is like judging the accuracy
of a thermometer. Both are very accurate but just because a person can buy and even
read a thermometer does not qualify them as doctor.
The success of a polygraph test is in the hands of the examiner
If poorly trained the results will be a coin toss.
On the flip side, a polygraph in the hands of a a well trained examiner that is experienced in proper question formulation, psycho psychology, and
Interogation tehniques, a polygraph examination is accurate in the high 90 percent where, as opposed to a jury trial can only claim 60 percent accuracy. This is why the industry should be regulated
Huh? If my thermometer is accurate, I can read it. It is literally the opposite of a polygraph.
That’s what he said. “Both are very accurate, but just because a person can buy and read one doesn’t make one a doctor.”
Yes, if your thermometer is accurate you may be able to read it but you’re still not a doctor and making a diagnosis is not responsible. It’s a tool for a non-doctor. It can tell you a temperature but not more – at least not much more, let alone an accurate diagnosis.
Mr. Okeefe, after reading your post, I immediately thought of Aldridge Ames, the CIA official/spy that “passed” an FBI administered polygraph. I imagine that the FBI used a “well trained” polygraph examiner that was experienced in proper question formulation, psycho psychology (?) and interrogation techniques, yet this spy still walked after using some very simple evasion techniques. Likewise, I would bet that Gary Ridgeway, the Green River serial killer was also examined by a “competent” polygraphist.
Nearly anyone can be a polygraphist or a derivative such as an CVSA examiner. The intelligence bar is literally lying on the ground (pun intended). In the case of the CVSA, the training time is only a week, which is a very short training period for anyone aside from “Dr.” Charles Humble, whom managed to earn a Ph.D in six hours. Real forensic scientists will usually have advanced science or medical degrees, not strip mall doctorates.
In my opinion, the underlying reason why the lie industry has such a high failure rate is that human beings are extremely complicated and polygraphs and their derivatives are nothing but simple stress detectors. Telling lies can be stressful, but then again, telling the truth can also be stressful. Also, just because a human may be asked to answer a question, it does not necessarily mean that the human is focused on that question.
Finally, Mr. Okeefe, I am wondering where you are deriving your stats. The academic studies I have perused advised voice stress hovers around 50%, while the polygraph is around 60%.
Also, granted the jury system is far from perfect, I am fairly certain it has much more accuracy than the polygraph.
Hi, I was hesitant to comment on anything regarding my appearance on the show, but I have to voice my concerns with Grogan and polygraphs in general. Grogan asked me questions like if I remember if she had gotten a 60 vs 90 min session, hot stones or not, etc. The problem is that it was 1.5 years ago, so it was too hard to remember those specifics. He made an issue out of it by stating that my memory may not be so good, so I may not remember if I assaulted her or not. He made me question my own memory that these little mind games skewed the results. We also had a major problem with the amount of water intake. The producers didn’t tell me to drink lots of water hours earlier to hit my sweat glands/finger tips. So I had to leave the building, chug bottled water, then wait another 30 mins for it to kick in. He also stated multiple times that if I failed to be ready to explain myself. I found it odd that one of those times he stated this before we did the final version of the test. This also messed with my mind as if he didn’t have faith in me to pass. This combination of variables gave innacurate results. I assure you I am 100% innocent of that specific allegation towards that client. She never even claimed to see my genitals and does not know what she felt. I never even pulled my pants down or unzipped. It’s also possible she may have felt my pants over my crotch, in which case the question should have asked “bare genitals.” Finally, I had horrible sleep the 2 days prior b/c I slept in the backseat of a car they arranged for me to be taken across country on set. Better sleep could have helped too. Polygraphs are not always accurate and have too many factors needed to make them reliable.
John Grogan is a quack and a fraud. On that, we can all agree.
Now, if I may digress, I am most disturbed by the unprofessionalism of Phil McGraw, who, as a doctoral level psychologist would know, with zero doubt, that all forms of so-called “lie detectors” are pseudo science. Dr. Phil is literally whoring himself for ratings and entertainment, not unlike Wilcos, et al.
As a career criminologist, I have worked, associated, and attended training given by psychologists. During some of this training, I could literally see some of my colleagues rolling back their eyes and groaning about some of the out of touch with reality things some of these social scientists and clinicians said that was out of sync with how street criminals actually behave. Personally, I was fine with that, all of us look at things differently depending on our respective prospectives.
On a personal level, just casually chatting with many psychologists over the years, I can say that many in the field are upset that they are not taken as seriously as physicians and other scientific practitioners as chemists, DNA technologists and physicists. Many psychologists are upset that their chosen occupation is often dismissively referred to as “psycho-babble.”
I realize even a doctorate in social science requires years of study, dedication, sacrifice, and probably years of crushing debt. I get and respect that. On an aside, that is why my blood boils whenever Humble, Baker et al outright lie about having doctorate degrees as a marketing ploy.
“Dr. Phil” is doing harm to the respectability of psychology by literally associating the near science of psychology with the pseudo science of polygraphy.
I think some one needs to do an “intervention” with Dr. Phil, and have a “no nonsense” talk with him about “lie detectors.” While we are at it, maybe he needs to read one of his own diet books.
My birth father bragged in the 70s that he passed a polygraph test. I never doubted that he would, bc he was a high functioning sociopath. He lied for fun, to family, and for money. (he was a realtor) It is my opinion that if someone had no conscience, they can pass no matter the question.
Joe Paolella a Real Polygraph examiner and business partner of mine told me john Grogan was a fake just like Jack Trimarco has said.
I dont know Grogan but from what Ive seen of him on video would no doubt cause me to go elsewhere if I were in need of Polygraph testing.
Anonymous, all polygraph and VSA examiners are fake. That is why they are referred to as pseudoscientists. There is simply no known, unbiased research that shows over a 50% rate of reliability. Basically, a coin toss. Yes, John Grogan is a fake, but so was Jack Trimarco, much as a TV psychic is as fake as a brick and mortar psychic, and a newspaper horoscope is as bogus as an astrologer to the stars in Hollywood. Fake credentials from say APA and NACVSA does not a scientist make.
To counter the unbiased research from universities, practitioners of lie pseudoscience report that the egg head researchers are ignorant of field work, and do not really understand how to work the witchcraft boxes. Well then, if the lie practitioners have so little respect for well educated researchers, why to they buy so many bogus Ph.Ds? Off the top of my head, I can think of “Dr.” Humble, “Dr.” Baker and a “Dr.” Berg.
There is real harm being done by the pseudoscience of lie detection. We have the notorious cases of Aldrich Ames and Gary Ridgway and more recently, Ahmad Siam Alokozai whom reports he was the victim of a bogus lie detector test.
Any time Dr Phil used a polygraph test it was just to confirm/backup what he had already 90% proved in his interviews.
My husband passed a polygraph test and I know he was guilty. He was asked if he had another form of communication ie another cell phone. I know he did. I heard it ring. I am 100 percent sure. I wanted to prove this just invade of divorce proceedings. He spent 2 and a half hours with him. They had fun. My husband is a narcissist and a polygraph will not pick that up
[…] Lucky and co-host Grady Rains even brought in John Grogan, a polygraph examiner (that’s been labeled a fraud by the late FBI Polygraph Unit special agent Jack Trimarco) and TV personality known for […]
[…] and co-host Grady Rains even introduced in John Grogan, a polygraph examiner (that’s been labeled a fraud by the late FBI Polygraph Unit particular agent Jack Trimarco) and TV persona identified for […]
[…] aimbot. Lucky and co-host Grady Rains even brought in John Grogan, a polygraph examiner (that was referred to as fraud by the late FBI Polygraph Unit special agent Jack Trimarco) and a TV personality known for […]
[…] who regularly appeared on Dr. Phil before his death in 2018) publicly declared Grogan a “polygraph parasite (opens in new tab)” allegedly convicted of “26 counts of fraud.” Grogan refuted these claims, and […]
[…] who appeared regularly with Dr. Phil before his death in 2018) publicly announced Grogan, “polygraph parasite (opens in a new tab)“Allegedly convicted of” 26 counts of fraud “. Grogan rejected these claims and […]
[…] It should be noted that John Grogan, who conducted Greiwe’s “test,” has a particularly poor reputation even amongst polygraph operators, a fact of which Greiwe should have been aware had he done any due diligence. The late Jack Trimarco, a career FBI special agent and polygrapher who in retirement performed for the Dr. Phil show, denounced Grogan as a “fraud.” […]
What is Dr.Phil’s reaction to the comments that Grogan is a fraud? I watch all the old shows and was familiar with Jack Trimarco. I have not seen any new lie detector tests for years.
Thank you for a response
Phil McGraw has offered no public comment on this matter. However, in his following polygraph episode, a different polygraph operator (Gil Witte) appeared on the show: https://antipolygraph.org/blog/2021/02/28/dr-phil-presents-polygraph-operator-gil-witte-as-a-countermeasures-expert/