Was there a watershed moment that created this climate or has it been a gradual shift?
The watershed would have to be the entire Clinton abomination with Monica Lewinsky. All bets are off when we start dragging dresses out of closets to test them for the president's DNA. That's a talk show. We turn it into Jerry Springer
and that's what we've turned this election into.
Since you mention Jerry, how would you say you distinguished yourself from the other guys you shared
the dial with?
One: I respect the living rooms I'm brought into. You can watch my show and not have to worry about
taking a shower at the end to wash the garbage off. Two: The show doesn't just belabor an issue. If I address an issue like date rape, I'm going to talk about the situation that lead to what happened and discuss solutions. Three: I'm the only show in the history of television to have an aftercare program—and I'm not talking about three minutes in the green room. We've sent about 3,500 guests into aftercare, which has included full-blown medical surgeries and treatment centers for everything from drug addiction to anorexia. Over the last 17 years, I did 3,150 shows and there's not one I had my name on that I wasn't proud of.
In 17 years, there's not a single show you wish you hadn't done?
There was only one I wanted to pull back. I'm sorry I did it, but I was proud of the way I handled the topic.
What was the topic?
Back in my first year we did a show on infantilism—those freaks that dress up in diapers and run
around the house sucking on bottles playing baby. [Phil] Donahue and Sally [Jessy Raphael] had done it before me and I had this group of producers who convinced me it would pull great numbers. So, I tried it. After the show aired I said, "That's it. Now, I approve every topic and every guest." From then on I maintained 100 percent creative control.
And now it's all wrapping up, huh?
People have asked me what's it going to be like to be retired. Right now, I've got four projects that are close to being greenlit, including a reality show I'm producing with the NFL and the next version of The Montel Williams Show. Plus I just signed my eighth book deal. So, I had my finale, but I'm not going anywhere. I'm like Jay-Z: "This is my last tour… This is my last tour…."
One last question. Truth or Internet rumor: Were you a Swiss rodeo clown before getting on TV?
That's so crazy! Do you know that you're the fifth person who's asked me that? Someone else told me that on Wikipedia there's a whole thing about Connie Chung, Maury Povich, and Montel Williams leading some Internet relationship. Ever heard that one? One day my wife jokingly asked, "Honey, you've been cheating on me with Connie Chung and Maury Povich?" But, no, I was not a rodeo clown. That's funny.