Marc Gafni, the rabbi-turned-New Age guru who has been accused of sexually assaulting minors, appeared on the “Dr. Phil” television show on Friday to defend himself.
Gafni was largely unrepentant when pressed by host Phil McGraw on past allegations, including that he coerced and had sexual relations with minors. Gafni claimed that his actions were consensual and blown out of proportion, and that he had taken polygraph tests that proved his innocence.
Gafni claimed that he was subject to an “ongoing smear campaign” that was a “form of name rape.”
One of his alleged victims, Judy Mitzner, repeated her allegations on the show. She said that when she was 16 and a frequent visitor to Gafni’s house, the then-24-year-old rabbi touched her under her nightgown despite her protestations. According to her, Gafni then said that “this never happened and would never happen again.” But two days later, she said, Gafni appeared again wearing only a robe, eventually resulting in her touching him naked.
Gafni admitted to having “brief sexual contact that didn’t involve intercourse” with Mitzner, but claimed in his defense that he had taken a polygraph test that purported to show that she had asked her to sleep with him.
McGraw also brought up another of Gafni’s alleged victims, Sara Kabakov, who first shared her story in the Forward in 2016. Kabakov claimed that Gafni repeatedly molested her when she was 13 and he was 19.
According to her, Gafni, who would sometimes sleep in her brother’s room, “started coming into my room after I had fallen asleep, and waking me up. I remember clearly that when he tried to touch me, I pushed him away, repeatedly. I remember saying ‘No!’ over and over again. No one had talked to me about sexual abuse, but I remember knowing intuitively, with every cell of my body, that this was wrong.”
Gafni responded to McGraw that Kabakov’s claims where “absolutely and categorically not true.”
“I was madly in love with Sara,” Gafni said. “There was never any sense whatsoever..that there was any sense of coercion.”
“She was a child, Marc. What do you mean, you were in love with her?” McGraw responded. “You were a 19-year-old man and you’re saying you were in love with a 13-year-old child. Does that not fit in your ear wrong? That’s a felony!”
McGraw noted that more than 100 rabbis signed a petition urging organizations to “cut all financial and institutional ties” with Gafni. He responded that he was the subject of a smear campaign.
Gafni has recently worked as a tantric sex guru and New Age sage whose work was supported by the co-founder and CEO of Whole Foods until reports about the scandals surrounding him resurfaced.
The full episode of “Dr. Phil” can be seen here.
Correction, February 14: An earlier version of this story claimed that Phil McGraw confronted Marc Gafni with allegations that Gafni coerced and had sexual relations with minors under his care. In fact, McGraw did not state that minors were under Gafni’s care.
Correction, February 28: An earlier version of this story claimed that Judy Mitzner accused Marc Gafni of touching her under her nightgown without her consent when she was 15. In fact, the alleged incident happened when she was 16.