The Washington Post

‘Hot sauce mom’ gets 3 years probation: Is TV to blame for extreme behavior?

Jessica Beagley sits at the defendant’s table with her husband, Gary, before her sentencing hearing on Monday in Anchorage, Alaska. (Dan Joling/AP)

The 36-year-old Alaska woman was convicted of misdemeanor child abuse last week. She received a suspended 180-day sentence and $2,500 fine, in addition to the probation, the AP reports.

The prosector in the case argued that Beagley subjected her son, whom she adopted from Russia, to the extreme punishment to get on “Dr. Phil.” In a video segment, which Beagley’s daughter filmed, the mother screams at her child while giving him hot sauce and putting him in a cold shower. The 7-year-old was being punished for lying about sword-fighting with pencils at school.

The defense lawyer said that she turned to “Dr. Phil” to get help for her child’s behavior issues.

Beagley originally contacted the show in April 2009 and didn’t hear back until over a year later. The producers then asked to see the act, so she sent in an audition tape seen here.

The “Dr. Phil” show did not respond to the “Today” show’s request for comment.

We may never know Beagley’s real motivation for sending in the tape. One side presents an exhausted mother who needed to get help. The other shows a woman who wanted to be on TV and used criminal methods to get there.

We do know that some people will lie and do harmful acts for a moment in the spotlight. In the infamous “Balloon Boy” case, Richard and Mayumi Heene lied about their son Falcon being caught in a rogue balloon in order to get attention. The Heenes, who had appeared on ABC’s “Wife Swap,” were given jail time and banned from selling their story. The family recently said they would sell the balloon — for charity.

The case also brings to mind the recent suicide of Russell Armstrong, who was featured on Bravo’s “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.” Armstrong’s failing relationship with wife Taylor was expected to be a major part of Season 2. They were in the midst of a divorce at the time of his death.

The Post’s Jen Chaney and many others have asked whether Armstrong’s time on TV contributed to his death. His mother told CNN that her son feared he would not “survive” how he was portrayed on the show. Of course, we’ll never really know Armstrong’s motivation, either.

The New York Times’ Virginia Heffernan argues that reality TV stars need training on how to deal with the stress fame can cause. Indeed, regular people have to be pushed to unnatural extremes to even get on TV. And once they’re there, the spotlight isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be.


Success! Check your inbox for details. You might also like:

Please enter a valid email address

See all newsletters

Show Comments
Most Read


Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Your Three. Video curated for you.