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Newt Gingrich`s Family Values

Aired January 20, 2012 - 21:00   ET


DR. DREW PINSKY, HOST: Here we go.

Newt Gingrich`s X factor. We are so clever. She was his mistress while he was married. Now he`s running for president. Will the other woman become the First Lady of the United States? As a voter, how do you feel about the private lives of public servants?

And a medical mystery, 12 girls from the same school still suffering from a bizarre disorder and what if this were your daughter.

Let`s get started.

Good evening. That was a pretty dramatic footage you saw there of teen-age girls developing these wild tics. We`re going to look at what causes these spontaneous tics and twitches to develop. We`re going to do that later in the show and evaluate it, talk to these girls, see what might be at the core. Later - that is later.

But first, an ex-couple embroiled in a contentious battle. She says he wanted an open marriage to have - in order to have sex with his mistress. He denies it. He`s also a staunch supporter of family values and he wants to be our president. Watch this, then we will talk.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Newt Gingrich`s ex is going public saying the former House Speaker wanted an open marriage.

MARIANNE GINGRICH, NEWT GINGRICH`S EX-WIFE: He said, yes, but you want me all to yourself. He was asking to have an open marriage and I refused.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Newt Gingrich lashed out at the media. CNN`s John King asked him about his ex-wife`s allegation.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Would you like to take some time to respond to that?

NEWT GINGRICH, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No. But I will. And I am frankly astounded that CNN would take trash like that and use it to open a presidential debate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He`s on his third marriage. He`s had two divorces. He`s also had affairs.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Marianne Gingrich was married to Newt for almost two decades.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Gingrich strongly denied his ex-wife charges.


PINSKY: So he said/she said between Republican Presidential Candidate Newt Gingrich and his ex-wife Marianne began with this explosive claim she shared on ABC`s "Nightline." Watch this.


M. GINGRICH: I said to him, Newt, we`ve been married a long time. And he said, "Yes, but you want me all to yourself." Callista doesn`t care what I do."

BRIAN ROSS, HOST, ABC`S "NIGHTLINE": What was he saying to you, do you think?

M. GINGRICH: He was asking to have an open marriage and I refused.

ROSS: He wanted an open marriage?

M. GINGRICH: Yes, that I accept the fact that he - he has somebody else in his life.

ROSS: And you said?

M. GINGRICH: No. No. That is not a marriage.


PINSKY: Andrew Breitbart is a conservative political writer. He is getting hooked up right now, will be joining us shortly.

Lisa Bloom, attorney, author of "Think" to be in the interest of what I guess our obligations are as a network I have to tell you her political leanings are progressive.

And actress Rosa Blasi knows about infidelity firsthand. Her former husband was a professional athlete who cheated on their wedding night. And she is the author of "Jock Itch," a comedic memoir. And I didn`t have your political leanings yet. What are they?

ROSA BLASI, ACTRESS/AUTHOR: My political leanings?

PINSKY: We have - apparently I have to say that as part of this network.

BLASI: Oh, no. I have no -

PINSKY: No political leanings.

BLASI: No, I don`t.

PINSKY: Fantastic.

BLASI: I really don`t.

PINSKY: Because that is not the reason for this conversation tonight. Actually it makes me angry that I have to say that, guys, because we are just trying to understand the human story behind this and also I would like to understand why we as a voting public are responding to this or how we respond to it.

Not only that, Gingrich is surging in the polls in the face of this kind of these sorts of allegations. So let`s start to look into this a little bit. How does the idea of an open marriage sit with you, Rosie?

BLASI: Well, it wouldn`t be for me personally. The problem I have with open marriage is that usually there`s one party that never had the conversation about it. It just - it just doesn`t take place.

PINSKY: It was just - yes, right. I think the old word for that is cheating.

BLASI: Yes. But I salute, you know, I salute Newt Gingrich if allegedly he asked, because kudos to him for even - for asking. Most people just do what they want.

PINSKY: To have them a way to step up and go.

BLASI: I mean, yes, people just do it.

PINSKY: Well, no. I think what it is, Lisa, correct me if I`m wrong on this, it seems like what he did was he did it and then he asked her to continue to accept him having a mistress, if she would like to continue the marriage. Is that what you understood?

LISA BLOOM, ATTORNEY: Right, he asked after the fact, after the affair with Callista that he`s admitted happened and he apparently was critical of Marianne, wife number two, because she wanted him all to herself, you know, as most spouses do.

Look, you know, my political leanings are what they are but I`ve always been consistent on this issue. I don`t care what people do in their private life, that`s their business as long as it`s between consenting adults, but when you are a hypocrite, when you`re a family values advocate as Newt Gingrich is, when you`re out there doing speeches about Christian family values, which is what he was doing at the time, when he went after Bill Clinton for having an affair, led the impeachment proceedings against Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich himself was having this affair at the very same time, it`s a major hypocrisy problem.

PINSKY: Yes, I completely agree.

We actually posted this question on our website tonight asking does a politician`s private life influence your vote. Now, Lisa says it does for her, Rosa says it does for her, but Lisa, only if it`s on the setting of hypocrisy. Sixty-eight percent of you said yes, 32 percent of you said no.

But, Rosa, let`s think about it this way. Bill Clinton was a great administrator. He had some indiscretions and it bogged his administration down.


PINSKY: So his, call it character, his interpersonal behavior, though it didn`t affect his ability to lead, it affected his ability to function in his administration.

BLASI: Well, I think the question that people have to ask is if you`re a liar in love, are you a liar in life and what else -

PINSKY: Hold on a second, slow down.


PINSKY: Politicians lie? Like, hold on a second. Slow down.

BLASI: Listen, just the ones who are against gay marriage and then may have a gay lover, just those. But no other politicians lie.

PINSKY: Andrew Breitbart now joins us. Andrew, I don`t know if you`ve had a chance to listen in on what`s going on here. But what we`re trying to figure out is - and we got our tongue - there you are.

I got my tongue in my cheek a little bit. But actually I want to understand this, which is should we be looking at the character of our presidential candidates? I mean, throughout history some pretty scurrilous types have led humans successfully. And as I mentioned, Bill Clinton a few minutes ago had a pretty successful administration, but it got bogged down because of his personal behavior.

Is it important that we look at people`s not just private lives but should we call it character?

ANDREW BREITBART, AUTHOR, "RIGHTEOUS INDIGNATION": First of all, let me just state about Newt Gingrich, what we know before the Brian Ross report where he`s talking about this alleged open marriage stuff, which was - which is he said/she said dropped on the eve of - of an election. We know enough about Newt Gingrich`s marriage and his infidelities that we can judge him on what we knew before this report and that he wasn`t faithful to his wife.

I have to be honest with you, I was trained by the mainstream media during the Clinton/Lewinsky matter, to say it`s just about the sex, it`s just about the sex and that we shouldn`t judge a person on these issues. Now that a Republican whose ox is being gored, I have to say character does matter. And if you can lie to your wife, you can lie to your constituency.

PINSKY: But, Andrew, I`m going to stop you again. Slow down. You mean politicians lie? Is that what you`re alleging? I mean how dare you?

BLASI: Breaking news.

PINSKY: Breaking news. But I think there`s a deeper issue here which is -

BREITBART: They get to lie - they get to lie, but there`s a thing called the media and the new media that allows us to call them out on the lies and we get to judge them on those lies. The fact that we allow for them to get away with those lies does in fact matter.

And I think that to look upon people being somehow prissy for judging people upon their moral character is perhaps why this country is going down -

BLOOM: Well, you know, let he - let he who has never made a mistake in his personal life cast the first stone. I mean that`s the problem. And we don`t want to deter other one good people for running for office just because they made some mistakes in their personal life.

By the way, I was opposed to Bill Clinton at the time, even though I`m a Democrat because, number one, he was having sex with a White House employee which is a problem, and number two, he lied under oath. So, you know, these things can spill out into all different areas and have ramifications beyond just it`s about sex, if it`s sexual harassment, as with Herman Cain, that`s a different issue. So I think we have to look at each case on its facts.

BLASI: I think facts. I think the message here is be careful what you`re staunch about. Be careful what you become real vocal about.

PINSKY: Don`t protest too much.


PINSKY: But Lisa, I want to go back to you because I have let you go in just a second - but I think I`m letting you go, am I not?

BLOOM: Was it something I said?

PINSKY: Yes, I`m letting you go. No, it was nothing you said. I`ve just got a packed sort of situation here.

But the fact is that these kinds of - these kinds of - we have a problem in our country where our families are falling apart. If people like me that are treating addictions and other serious mental health issues, the serious destruction of the family in America is one of the major problems we`re seeing here and at the core of the family is the health of relationship.

And my concern is if somebody doesn`t know what`s necessary to have a healthy relationship, how can they tackle the problems they`re really so serious in today`s world? Do you agree with me on that?

BLOOM: Yes. But are you saying that people who are divorced shouldn`t run for office? I mean, look, I`m divorced, you know, I think I`m a pretty nice person. You know, I had marriages that didn`t work out, just like Newt Gingrich, just like Ronald Reagan. Just like a lot of people.

PINSKY: No, no, no. Lisa, I am not saying that at all.

What I`m saying, no - and thank you for saying that because that is not what I`m saying at all. I`m saying if somebody doesn`t understand how a relationship works and what makes a relationship healthy, to have the temerity to allegedly tell one`s wife, hey, just kind of suck it up and take it, I`m going to have a mistress and think that`s going to be OK, I mean people do that, let`s face it. But the fact is that it`s extremely unhealthy for relationships in a time when we have to focus on -

BLOOM: Of course but is it what he did? Isn`t the actual affair a lot worse than just asking her that question? I mean he admits he had the affair. He does not admit that he asked her that question. So, you know, that`s a he said/she said. But the actual affair that was going on and now this woman is his wife and I think that`s a much bigger issue.

PINSKY: Guys, I`ve got to break. Lisa, as I said, I`m going to let you go. Rosa and Andrew stay with me.

Next, is America ready for a first lady who was once the other woman? We`re going to talk about that more when we come back.



M. GINGRICH: It started with a phone call at my mother`s house and he asked for a divorce.

ROSS: On the phone.

M. GINGRICH: On the phone. And he said, "I want a divorce." I said, "Is there somebody else?" And it was quiet and I knew.


PINSKY: That was Marianne Gingrich during an interview that aired last night on ABC`s "Nightline." She`s the ex-wife of Republican Presidential Candidate Newt Gingrich. Her allegation is that Gingrich asked her for, quote, "an open marriage."

He opened exclusive - he had an explosive opening - and it created an explosion in the debates about Gingrich and his past indiscretions.

So to give you a little background on Newt Gingrich and his marriages, he married his first wife in 1962, Jackie Battley. And by the way I looked that up on Wikipedia and they said that she was his high school geometry teacher. Interesting.

While still married to Jackie, met his second wife Marianne Ginther in January, 1980. By February `81 he was divorced from Jackie and married Marianne. And in August of `81, met his third wife and current wife Callista in `93 and divorced his second wife Marianne six years later in `99. Gingrich married Callista in 2000. He has been a busy boy.

Joining the conversation is Sarah Symonds. She is a former mistress herself. Sarah, you`ve been with men in positions of authority who behave like this. Can you give us some insight?

SARAH SYMONDS, FORMER MISTRESS TO U.K. POLITICIAN: Absolutely, Dr. Drew. Thanks for having me on. Well, first of all, I`m not at all surprised by the story, if it`s true. Because typically when a married man is caught cheating by his wife, he doesn`t want to give up his mistress nor his wife. So it`s very - it`s not unusual for him to ask his wife to let him see his mistress and keep an open marriage going.

I actually have more respect for somebody who asks for an open marriage than somebody like Clinton, Weiner, et cetera, who just do it behind their wife`s backs and humiliate them even more.

PINSKY: Well, it`s kind of a choice between two evils. Perhaps one of the most jaw-dropping statements from Marianne Gingrich`s interview with ABC`s "Nightline," allegations that he - he, Gingrich, was sleeping with his mistress in the same bed he shared with his wife. Watch this.


M. GINGRICH: I found out during our conversations that it was occurring in my bedroom in our apartment in Washington. And he always called me at night. He always ended with I love you while she was there listening.

ROSS: Right next to him.

M. GINGRICH: In my home.


PINSKY: So, Andrew, again I want to sort of try to elevate this conversation a little bit. It`s easy to go, eww, gross, oh, he`s awful. But I`m more concerned with us as a voting public. How does this affect us? Why is he surging in the polls? How much should we need to understand about these people`s personal lives?

My biggest fear is two-fold, having asked that question but let me just put up my biggest fear. One is that that as Lisa said in the last segment, some of the behaviors will spill out in other directions and bad things will happen and it will bog down their administration and the other is that they really don`t understand what the people - what the American people are contending with today, what`s important to us.

So, Andrew, you answer.

BREITBART: OK. There`s a lot of things going on right here. We`re having this discussion with new information on the eve of the election. I would say this is the day that - of Axelrod`s special, this is Obama`s number one media guy and his campaign guy on the same day that Barack Obama is on "Time" Magazine claiming that he can`t do all the things he wants to do as president because he has to spend too much time with his family.

The juxtaposition shows to me that this is politics and it`s very effective. We`re talking about it, I think it`s a valid discussion, the timing is suspicious. But what is happening here and I think may happen in South Carolina, while there may be many evangelicals for whom this dirty trick, as it were, they were the object, they`re more angry at the mainstream media for dropping this the night before, that it may have the opposite effect that they want.

This is a valid discussion to talk about this behavior, but the suspicious nature of the media drop of this on the eve of the election is what is going to probably backfire against the people who dropped it to ABC News when they did.

PINSKY: Andrew, this is why I love you. This is why I love you. So my question then is what we see is Gingrich standing up to the mainstream media and looking like somebody who`s going to lead in spite of this attack and is that not what the voters seem to be responding to in South Carolina?

BREITBART: That is absolutely jujitsu, because people are now rooting for a guy on behalf of behavior that is manifestly horrific.

PINSKY: And is that something that could carry someone into the White House, do you think? I mean to me that seems like something that would stall out.

BREITBART: Yes. I think it could stall out over Charleston, but did you hear how the debate audience in CNN, how the people reacted when - when they reacted to the question at first and to the evangelical, at least majority evangelical audience, how they reacted to that. These people were upset. They knew a dirty trick when they saw one but I guarantee you when they`re talking at home with their family, they`re not happy with Newt Gingrich`s personal history.

PINSKY: First of all, I`ve got to point out that I`m watching Andrew in the Skype here and he really does look like Max Headroom and it`s quite distracting. But the points you`re making are very good. But I want - and you`ve got to get on - would you get in the studio here or get on the satellite feed or something? That is a problem for another day.

BREITBART: I`m in Michael Moore`s hometown right now, Travers City.

PINSKY: Are you with Michael?

BREITBART: That I could get elected on. No, I`m not.

PINSKY: But I want to bring it back to just a woman`s point of view. Because obviously the women`s vote is I bet is going to end up being very important this year. And as a woman hearing these stories and watching these poor women who have suffered at this guy`s hands and then see him stand up to the press in South Carolina, what - how are women going to go with that?

BLASI: Well, first of all, I think part of the press reaction last night was it was excitement. I mean, he was funny. His reactions were funny.

PINSKY: You mean when he stood up to John King?

BLASI: Yes. He stood up to John King. He said this is typical. He went after CNN. I mean, it was exciting and I think the audience responded.

PINSKY: I thought it was a cheap shot. But let`s, Sarah, you go ahead, tell me.

SYMONDS: I don`t know why we`re all so obsessed by this. It happened in the past. We must get off our lofty high horses like nobody make a mistake. The guy got out of his unhappy marriage. We`re dealing here with an ex-wife who`s obviously very scorned, very hurt, so who knows if it`s the truth? But it`s very rare for a man to leave his wife and marry his mistress, so at least he committed to that.

I actually think this could do Newt a whole lot of good. It shows he makes commitments, he gets out of bad things, and he`s in a very happy marriage now with his mistress.

Don`t you know that mistresses make for great wives? She`d be a great first woman. Let`s bring it on.

PINSKY: I got to go, guys.

BREITBART: I love you, but you`re a mistress.

PINSKY: OK, hold on, Andrew. I got to go.

Rosa, Sarah thank you.

Next, what do you think about Gingrich and his family values? I know some of you are quite fired up. We`re going to get to your questions and calls after the break.

And later, Heather McDonald is here to help me dispense my new "Doctor`s Orders." Why won`t a school use a cougar as its mascot? You`ve got to find out why. Stay tuned.



N. GINGRICH: It`s really (ph) quite clear. The story is false. Every personal friend I have who knew us in that period says the story was false. We offered several of them to ABC to prove it was false. They weren`t interested because they would like to attack any Republican.


PINSKY: And before I get on with Newt`s story, I love live television. In the interest of full disclosure, before we went on to commercial there, that was not a McDonald`s commercial you saw. That was just a mistake.

So we`ve been talking about Newt Gingrich`s attack on the media after he was confronted before last night`s debate about his ex-wife`s claim that he wanted an open marriage. Again, this idea of it being an open marriage is perhaps a little bit overstated. He had a mistress and he wanted to keep his wife around while he kept his mistress around and she called that an open marriage.

Many of you have strong opinions about this. Let`s get to the phones. We`ve got Billie in Tennessee. Go ahead.


PINSKY: Hi, Billie.

BILLIE: I just wanted to say that I think Newt`s ex-wife must have liked the idea of having an open marriage because she was sleeping around with him when he was married to his first wife, if I`m correct. And I also think that alcohol and sex go together and politicians have an abundance of both, and if they would clean out the cabinets (INAUDIBLE), we`d probably see.

PINSKY: Well, you`re saying something very complicated, Billie, but I actually have done a little bit of research on politicians and they - they do have a higher incidence of childhood trauma, they do have higher incidence of substance use than the average population. They kind of keep it under control, though, for the most part.

And you`re right, the - the sexual acting out and alcohol does kind of go together and this is a population that might be a risk for that kind of thing.

Chris tweets, "If you can`t be honest and faithful to your own wife, how can you be honest and faithful with your country." And I think that`s what we were talking about in those last segments, which is we`re worried that somebody who would lie to us about - or lie to people he cared about would lie to us as well.

And yet, you know, I was being facetious about this. We live in a time when it`s hard to trust politicians, and that`s a sad reality. I mean, I was making those jokes glibly, as though it was just a matter of fact, and isn`t it sad? I mean, isn`t that sad that - that I wouldn`t think twice before making a joke like that?

Pamela tweets, "Do open marriages really work or will the jealousy eventually just become too much?" And, you know, I work with couples all the time and I have - I have never seen - and whenever you - you have a primary intimacy, it needs nurturance, it needs stability, it needs commitment to be healthy and to flourish.

Anything outside of that primary focus diminishes the health and intimacy of the primary relationship. And when you and your spouse are the core of a family, you are attacking that family. That family is in trouble, it`s under attack when you`re diminishing the things it needs to be healthy. Think about that.

And that`s what worries me about a guy like - and, again, no politics here. Just a guy that would engage in those sorts of behaviors would - doesn`t understand that, when those are such core issues in our country today, that`s when I have a concern.

Glenda on Facebook writes, "I don`t think anyone really cares what Newt does except for the fact that he`s so judgmental of others for similar issues. `Let he who has never sinned cast the first stone.`" And, in fact, that`s what Lisa Bloom really alluded to in that last segment, and that`s what I think troubles people almost more than anything else about this story.

Finally, Holly writes, "We have a lot bigger problems to worry about in our country. Fifty percent of Americans are divorced. Does that really show character?" And again, Lisa brought that one up, too. Just the fact that somebody is divorced is very, very different than not understanding what relationships need, what families need and then talking about family values and trying to lead a country on those issues.

Next, a dozen teens have suddenly an inexplicably started to tick and twitch. What is causing this? Go to to read more about it and any of the story you see here tonight.

A really interesting story. We`ll talk about it. Be back after this.



PINSKY (voice-over): One school, 12 teenage girls, and a very disturbing medical mystery, uncontrollable twitches and tics developed overnight and no one knows why. One doctor says it`s a stress-induced disorder, but one of the girls and her mother say no way. They want answers and they want help, and they`re right here talking about it.


PINSKY (on-camera): tonight, teen girls all at the same school and almost all at the same time develop mysterious Tourette-like symptoms. What could be the cause of all this? Is it an environmental issue or something else that the young girls have? CNN correspondent, Jason Carroll, visited the home of one of the girls. Watch this.


JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Thera Sanchez was a cheerleader, an honor roll student, and as a senior at Le Roy Junior High School in Upstate New York, well on her way to planning her college future. When she woke up from her nap last October, everything changed.


MELISA PHILLIPS, THERA SNCHEZ`S MOTHER: The stuttering, I mean, it took over really contorting on the left side of, you know, with her mouth and her neck.

CARROLL: Doctors told Thera her condition was brought on by stress, and she would get better. But once the stuttering ended, it soon gave way to uncountable twitching. In all, health officials say 12 girls from Le Roy junior/senior high school have exhibited similar symptoms. The girls were from different grades and some didn`t know each other, but many did, including Thera`s friend, Lydia Parker.

LYDIA PARKER, SUFFERS FROM UNEXPLAINED TICS AND TWITCHES: : The last time I went to the neurologist, they said that they`re not sure and that they`ll keep looking into it. Besides that, they haven`t told anyone anything.


PINSKY: With us is the young woman from the piece we just watched, Thera Sanchez and her mother, Melisa, Melisa Philips. We also have Lydia Parker. She is a friend of Thera and also suffers from this condition as well. Thank you all for being here, first of all.

Now, before we get started, I just wanted to clarify that, apparently, the New York State health department conducted a three-month investigation and has officially ruled out environmental factors or infection as the cause of illness. The Le Roy school district also did their own testing, came up with nothing.

So, let me go to the girls first. We`ll keep this conversation going. Thera, how are you doing? This has got to be a really, obviously, a distressing thing. How are you?

SANCHEZ: I`m not good, not today. It hasn`t been for a while. My tics got worse.

PINSKY: And, mom, I understand for a while that they got better. She went back to school, and then, they started to come back again. Is that accurate?

PHILIPS: Yes. She was able to go to school in October and November. After Thanksgiving, it came back with a vengeance and started with seizures related to the tics and, you know, it`s just gone from there. She was hospitalized again in December.

PINSKY: The girls, I`m sure these symptoms no matter what has caused them gets worse when you`re anxious and, obviously, you`re in front of a TV camera now. I want you to breathe deep and kind of -- let`s everybody calm down and let`s try to figure this thing out. You guys feel comfortable?


PINSKY: OK. Let`s take a look at some the video of Thera in the hospital back in October, not long after she first started having these symptoms. Melisa, after this video was shot, there she is, as you said, she got better, she went back to cheerleading, and then, we have these symptoms today, very similar to what she originally presented with. Is that right?

PHILIPS: Yes. And, she also now has daily blackouts and seizures with these where not like epilepsy seizures but where she`s somewhat lucid and can feel, you know, her body being rigid and it`s almost like she`s a stone statue. And she can`t move and she`s very weak and tired, and so, it just continually seems to get new symptoms.

PINSKY: Melisa, this must be -- obviously, I mean, a distressing to have your daughter, you know, suddenly having these mysterious symptoms. What are you hoping that officials do? What are you asking for? How can we help?

PHILIPS: We need -- all of us need to have more testing done. We need to know that every physical aspect of this has been visited. So, we are confident and, you know, a diagnosis that we do get from a doctor. We haven`t had, you know, heavy metal testings done. We haven`t had all of this stuff done, you know, collectively as a group.

You know, everybody`s been being treated individually, and you know, their feeling, their assumption that this is just stress and anxiety induced or the conversion disorder, it`s not enough. I can`t go on by your gut feeling. I need positive reinforcement that this is what this is, especially 12 girls in such a small community.

PINSKY: Right. Lydia, were you aware that other girls at your school had this condition at the time you developed your symptoms?

PARKER: I was. For a while before I woke up from my nap.

PINSKY: And had you seen them with these tics or were you aware of the manifestation of what was going on or had you just heard about it?

PARKER: I was in school for a little while after it started, but I ended up leaving the last week of October because I didn`t feel I could handle school anymore, and my doctors didn`t feel I could handle school anymore.

PINSKY: I understand. And, Thera, are you back at school now?

SANCHEZ: No. I`m getting home tutored.

PINSKY: Are other kids supportive of you? How are you feeling? How are you dealing with this emotionally?

SANCHEZ: Other kids are very supportive of me. It`s -- it`s hard being -- it`s hard not being able to do what you love, even going to school. I love going to school. But it`s -- it`s -- it`s hard that -- I think it`s even harder knowing that I don`t know what`s going on. Like I`d like to be able to answer people if they ask me what`s happening.

PINSKY: My understanding -- I think -- control room tell me, do we have footage of her on the "Today" show? Is that correct? OK. I`m going to show some footage from the "Today" show, NBC`s "Today" show. Take a look at this, and I`ll talk to you about it afterwards.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They told us it was traumatic, but I really don`t think any of us had that traumatic of a life before, and that it would randomly happen.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You`re just shaking a little bit, but -- so you have a little bit here and there, but it`s not as pronounced as Thera`s.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But you see a similarity, though, in your symptoms?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. Mine`s more advanced, I think, because I`ve had it longer, but mine`s definitely gotten better.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It has gotten better for you. Has it gotten better for you, Thera?

SANCHEZ: No. It gets worse.


PINSKY: Thera, my understanding is after that interview, they started talking about this being a conversion reaction, and that was distressing and upsetting to you. Can you tell me about that?

SANCHEZ: I actually really don`t understand what that means. No one has told me what it means.

PINSKY: OK. I ask that because in my next segment here, and I think you guys are going to stay with me, I have a psychiatrist who has treated similar groups of women with a conversion-type symptoms. I don`t want to upset you. I don`t want you to think that I`m saying that`s what this is.

I`m saying I want to look at this, and I want to state this ahead that you don`t contemplate something being a psychiatric condition until you have ruled out all potential biological causes. Think how devastating it`d be for these young girls if, in fact, it turned out to be some toxins that, you know, somewhere these girls were exposed to.

It caused a little focal damage somehow in the brain, and the whole while being called a conversion reaction until you`d exhausted every possibility. In fact, at the end of the next segment, I want to pull a shout out, if anybody knows anything about movement disorders and potential causes, environmental causes, that they could perhaps help us out.

I`ll give you a website you can log on to. But, here`s what you`re going to do. You guys sit tight there as best you can. We`re going to talk to the psychiatrist. He`s a colleague and friend of mine and see what he thinks of these conditions. So, please stay with us.


PHILIPS: She does not have time for "I feel" or guess work or anything like that. She`s deteriorating.

SANCHEZ: I don`t think I can wake up from a nap and this just happened.


PINSKY: Welcome back. We`ve been speaking with Thera Sanchez and her mother, Melisa Phillips, and Thera`s friend, Lydia Parker about Thera and Lydia`s mysterious medical condition that appeared a few months ago. As you see, it`s caused them to tick uncontrollably. Thera and Lydia are two of 12 teenagers from Le Roy High School in New York suffering from this peculiar disorder.

Health department officials claim this is not contagious, not environmental. So, what is this? I want to talk little much -- my guest here, again, joining me help this out, figure this out is psychiatrist, John Sharp, author of "The Emotional Calendar." Now, before I go to you, John, I want to talk to the girls a little bit more.

Ladies, again I want to restate that one of the bug a boos in my own mind is that people jump to psychological and psychiatric explanations for bizarre things before they exhaust medical and biological causes, and so, I want to just throw my weight behind that, mom that, hopefully somebody comes forward and really help you really walk through exhausting every possible avenue of potential biological causes for this condition.

Before we go on to discuss Dr. Sharp`s experience, is there anything else you`d like to say?

PHILLIPS: Anything you have to say?

SANCHEZ: Oh, me?


PINSKY: Either of you actually or mom.


PHILLIPS: I know I like your theory.

PINSKY: OK. Thera, before the break, you asked about conversion reaction. You said I don`t even know what that is. People keep bringing that up, and I don`t know what that is. Now, Dr. Sharp has examined groups of women who have had conversion reactions, similar case, in fact, with a group of high- stakes card dealers who are women. Isn`t that right?

DR. JOHN SHARP, PSYCHIATRIST, HARVARD MEDICAL SCHOOL: It`s true. It was a group of women who had nothing wrong with them medically except we had to check and make sure it wasn`t environmental, wasn`t infectious.

PINSKY: Always, right? Yes.

SHARP: Always. And after an exhaustive workup, someone started to think maybe we should look into their psyches, maybe we should try to understand what`s going on in a way that we hadn`t before. And, you know, I don`t think psychiatry is a spooky place. I think it`s a medical specialty, and any avenue that can help these young ladies I think should be explored after we can be sure that there`s no medical problem.

PINSKY: Right. And what did you do? What kind of treatment -- as I remember, as I think I heard, these women that you were treating were sort of basically having -- falling out of their chair having seizures basically.

SHARP: Basically. Yes. One fell out of her chair and had a seizure and then some of her friends on the floor actually had a similar physical reaction, and they were all taken off to a psychiatric ward after a medical evaluation.

PINSKY: So, let`s define conversion reaction or conversion disorder for people at home. How we can define that?

SHARP: OK. So, simply put a conversion disorder is a condition when a person converts psychic distress --

PINSKY: Like anxiety?

SHARP: Like anxiety but not necessarily -- this is going to be hard to understand but not necessarily consciously felt.

PINSKY: So, let`s say the brain converts it.

SHARP: The brain converts it.

PINSKY: The brain converts it from one thing into another.

SHARP: Into something physical.


SHARP: And you can have tingling, you can have lack of ability, you can have tics --

PINSKY: Numbness or paralysis?

SHARP: Get numb or go hoarse or go blind. And, it`s not faking it. It`s not a doubtful symptom.

PINSKY: It`s not lingering, as we say. It`s not somebody saying I`m trying to get attention from this. It`s actually the brain converting symptoms.

SHARP: It`s an amazing thing that people can actually do this and not be aware of it.


SHARP: So, it`s an example of what I call an abnormal illness affirming behavior. And people can do this and psychiatrists, once everything`s been excluded medically have to figure out why, have to come up with a hypothesis, some understanding as to why the balance, the healthy mental, physical balance would be so off.

PINSKY: And what kinds of treatments would you offer somebody -- say there were a group of people that were engaging in a common behavior, would you try to treat the whole group, would you treat just one individual or each have different kinds of treatment?

SHARP: Yes. You do both actually. You do both. So, you treat the individuals and you try to have some exploratory and supportive psycho therapy and you`d have some kind of a physical way of helping with the symptoms, a biofeedback is good, EEG biofeedback.


SHARP: Physical therapy is good.

PINSKY: Oops. Thera is having a little bit of a reaction there. Thera, are you OK? Let`s get back -- I`d like to go back there so I can see what`s going on, please. Help me. Control room? Thera, are you all right? Mom, what`s going on here?

PHILLIPS: No, she`s not. She`s having a seizure.

PINSKY: And these are seizures she`s had since she was a kid? Is that we`re looking at? OK.

PHILLIPS: No, no, these are from the tics.

PINSKY: These are a different kind of seizure that she develops?

PHILLIPS: These are a different kind of seizure.

PINSKY: OK. Is her air way OK? Do you need me to call paramedics?


PINSKY: Call paramedics?

PHILLIPS: No. It`s OK. It`s OK.

PINSKY: Now, I want to explain to people that if somebody has seizures -- and seizures are very, very common these days. You know, I have this horrible -- I need to be able to make sure she`s OK. I feel bad not being able to watch this here, guys. I don`t know if -- I wish would you allow me to see what`s going on there.

PHILLIPS: It`s going to pass.

PINSKY: There we go. Is she doing OK there, mom? Melisa?

PHILLIPS: Yes, she is.

PINSKY: Are they continuing or we all right?

PHILLIPS: They`re continuing, but she`s breathing.

PINSKY: All right, good. She`s breathing. Air way good. How often did she get this?


PINSKY: How often does she have these?

PHILLIPS: Daily, yes, since December. This is what I`m saying that it came back with a vengeance. She was doing so good, and then, it just like a virus runs its course for weeks and then just --

PINSKY: And then it comes back and gets worse.

PHILLIPS: And then it comes back and gets worse with new tics. The same thing Lydia has experienced and the rest of these girls.

PINSKY: Dr. Sharp, she is on Lamictal as it is. She`s on anti-seizure medication and still having this breakthrough phenomenon. It must be so distressing. I mean, poor Thera and poor mom.

SHARP: Yes. I`m so sorry to see how much her suffering is. And you know, talking about this can be distressing. No one is blaming these girls. No one is saying that this isn`t the kind of suffering we`re seeing --

PINSKY: Whatever the cause, whatever the diagnosis is, this is something of extreme suffering, not just for Thera but for mom as well, of course.

SHARP: Yes. Another thing that is really helpful is to try to understand, you know, how is this affecting each individual and who in addition to the identified patient is affected and how.

PINSKY: Well, mom obviously deeply. Mom, have you gone back and tried to ask for further anti-seizure medication?

PHILLIPS: She`s done so well on the Lamictal and the kind of epilepsy we have. They want to give you, you know, other kinds that have really bad side effects, so we are, you know, currently staying on the medication that we have, you know, that`s worked. For these seizures --

SHARP: You can maintain that --

PINSKY: They`re worried about side effects. How are we doing there? Is she OK? Is she slowing down?

PHILLIPS: She`s slowing down. Yes. She`s slowing down.

PINSKY: Does she come out of these quickly? Can we speak with her? Or does she have sort of a period where she`s kind of out of it?

PHILLIPS: She has where she`s out of it. These are so painful that they make her pass out. You know, she just literally has to sleep for hours.

PINSKY: After one of these. Mom, I got to say something, this is so painful to watch. I am hoping that somebody out there has some suggestions. As I understand, University of Rochester is near you, there are medical schools nearby.

Please, guys, let`s see if we can rally out there some academic types who can really look into this both for the group and for the individuals both to rule out environmental causes, infectious causes which are still way up the list of possibilities, and if it turns out to be none of that, give them sort of systemic intervention so they`re not living their lives like this. This is not OK.

SHARP: And Dr. Drew --

PINSKY: I got to take a break, john. I`m sorry. Ladies, I`m going to have to break away from you. Melisa, Lydia, Thera, our thoughts are with you. Anyone with expertise, as I said, we are looking for you. I`m going to take a break and be right back.


PINSKY: Well, guys, this is live television. We had promised "Doctor`s Orders" at the end of the show, but we`re obviously going to cancel that. We do not feel it was appropriate with what we`re trying to help out with Thera and her mom, Melisa. Are you guys still there, Melisa? Are you still with us?


PINSKY: There you are. You`re doing OK?


PINSKY: Lydia, are you OK? You`ve had to watch your friend get sick here in front of you. Are you feeling all right?




PINSKY: Have you yourself had any seizures or it`s really just the movement problem for you, Lydia?

PARKER: It`s just the ticking problem.


PHILLIPS: What about your blacking out, Lydia? Yes

PINSKY: Mom, just to reassure all of us here, as a doctor in us feels like out of control, tell me about Thera. Is she in her room now? Is she quietly on the floor? Where do we have Thera?

PHILLIPS: She`s on the floor quietly. I`m sorry, we --


PHILLIPS: Lydia`s getting upset.

PINSKY: OK. Lydia, are you all right, honey? Lydia, are you OK?


PINSKY: OK. Take some deep breaths. OK, my dear. So, Dr. Sharp, you were about to say something important before we go to break about the importance of supporting these kids through this.

SHARP: Absolutely. You know, psychiatry can be supportive and comforting --

PINSKY: Even if it`s a medical problem.

SHARP: Absolutely. I`ve been working with people with medical problems my whole psychiatric life, and so, I can certainly see how the pain here is so intense, and being able to provide some support and comfort, being able to provide some guidance and medications, coordinating with her other doctors and neurologists. This is what we want to do to start with.

PINSKY: And here`s my feeling about this kinds of situation is that, there is still so much ongoing suffering and so much intense symptomatology, I don`t care what the cause is, that`s not OK. Would you agree?

SHARP: Absolutely.

PINSKY: Not OK. All right. So, two doctors sitting here talking about it, looking at these poor people dealing with this, whatever the causes, we, as physicians, should be able to much better imagine that situation. I`m not being critical of my peers who might be caring for these guys. I`m sure it`s a complicated and tough situation.

The point is what I want to do is motivate mom and Thera and anybody else who is suffering medical problems, keep going back until you get answers and until you get that make sense, until the symptoms are OK, until you can survive with your symptoms again. Can I see my friends again here, Thera and Melisa? There we are. Are you doing OK, Melisa?

PHILLIPS: Yes, I am. But Lydia`s not doing good. Yes.

PINSKY: OK. I think we ought to pull Lydia aside and let her take the piece out of her ear, some deep breathing. Thank you, guys. Good, please.

SHARP: Can I say that, you know, psychiatrically the prognosis is generally quite good if you can be comprehensive, if you can really make a difference in the beginning to try to start to move things in the right direction, things usually do clear up over time. There`s a disorganizing phase where you don`t know what`s wrong and everything seems out of control.

That`s what we`re seeing. And that yields to an organizing phase where you can take some comfort in an understanding and a treatment plan. It always goes that way. So, we`ve just got to get these girls farther down the road.

PINSKY: OK. And I want to state again that you`ve all seen something kind of dramatic here, and I`m hoping any of you out there with an expertise in movement disorders, particularly any knowledge about something an inciting influence on the central nervous system by an environmental agent or an infectious agent that might cause something like this and is not routinely tested for.

We know the people have gone out and tested for the usual stuff, but, maybe there`s something you know about in your studies and your research that might hit the brain in this way. You can go ahead and specifically task for and please help these guys out. Thank you for watching. We`ll see you next time.