Grilled on Remarks About Mental Illness, Marianne Williamson Accuses Anderson Cooper of ‘Casting Aspersions’

By Justin Baragona
CNN

Democratic presidential candidate and self-help guru Marianne Williamson has been trying to make amends as of late for her past controversial comments on issues like mental illness and antidepressants, but CNN’s Anderson Cooper brought all the receipts on Thursday night and refused to let her off the hook.

Williamson’s claims on clinical depression and vaccinations have been under renewed scrutiny, especially after she got positive reviews in the second round of Democratic presidential debates this week. Many warn that her comments constitute a genuine threat to public health.

Williamson, who was also recently grilled by MSNBC’s Ari Melber on her anti-vaxxer past, found herself peppered with tough questions for nearly 16 minutes by the CNN anchor on her stances. Right away, Cooper pressed her on her repeated claims that taking antidepressants merely numbs people.

“Not all drugs numb you or mask you, and telling a seriously depressed person that taking an antidepressant they’re going to be numbed—is that not a good message?” Cooper wondered aloud.

Williamson, meanwhile, insisted she has never given that message while complaining that the “nuanced conversation was lost” regarding the nature and “phenomenon of human despair.”

The CNN anchor, however, wasn’t convinced, noting that one in 10 Americans are on antidepressants, pointing out that those who are seriously depressed aren’t “numbing” their pain but “actually trying to feel again.” As Williamson conceded there was an argument to that, Cooper reminded her that she once had said clinical depression is a “scam.”

Williamson said she was attempting to question the way we look at clinical depression, suggesting that society sometimes attempts to plaster over “normal human despair” in times of sadness with a “cheap yellow smiley face.”

“There is value sometimes in feeling the sadness, feeling that dark night of the soul… We have lost our sense that there are times when sadness is part of life,” she said, before going on to quote poetry.  

“There’s one of my favorite lines from the poet [Rainer Maria] Rilke, where he says ‘Let me not squander the hours of my pain.’”

She eventually told Cooper that calling clinical depression a scam was a “glib comment” and admitted she was wrong to say that.

Moments later, Cooper confronted her on her past suggestion that antidepressants were the cause of Robin Williams’ death by suicide, pointing out that the article she cited at the time was written by an organization funded by the Church of Scientology, which doesn’t believe in psychiatry. 

At one point, after Williamson said she believed a “spiritual person” is just as qualified to talk about issues of depression as a medical expert, Cooper straight-up asked her: “The Church of Scientology—would you want them to be head of CDC if you were president?”

Towards the end of the interview, and after repeatedly falling back to the “glib” explanation for her past remarks, Williamson grew more and more agitated, accusing Cooper of “casting aspersions” on her character and career.

“I am trying to understand some of your public statements,” Cooper noted. “You’ve addressed them.”

The lengthy and tense segment would come to an end with Williamson contending that her comments about depression aren’t meant for those who are suicidal, but rather she’s “talking about people who are depressed about the world today, given that the world is depressing.”

“Clinically depressed people aren’t depressed because the world is depressing,” Cooper retorted. “They have a chemical imbalance.”

Williamson, after delivering a lengthy response that revolved around “yoga” and “nutrition,” expressed disappointment that she was not given enough time to answer all of Cooper’s questions as the 16-minute interview concluded.

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