In the days after she became the most-Googled candidate at the first of two Democratic primary debates this week, Marianne Williamson faced sharp scrutiny on her past statements about vaccines and mental health during combative interviews with MSNBC’s Ari Melber and CNN’s Anderson Cooper.
On Friday night, she found herself in the warm embrace of HBO’s Bill Maher.
Williamson didn’t seem to know quite what to expect when she sat down with the Real Time host midway through his first show back on the air in several weeks. He called her “too interesting to run for president” before suggesting that her spiritual philosophy “sounds like Scientology.” Taken aback, she asked, “How can you even say that?”
“It just sounds like it, I’m not saying it is,” Maher responded quickly, walking back the perceived criticism. Despite his nearly militant anti-religious stance, he seemed oddly taken with her message about a “higher power.”
Maher went on to praise his guest for “going to the root of things” instead of only focusing on the “surface” like her Democratic competitors. “You and I are simpatico on health,” he told her. “What you say is what I’ve always said.”
When Maher brought up mental health, it seemed for a moment like he might take Williamson to task for her claims that antidepressants do nothing more than “numb” people’s pain. But no, instead he said, “I’m with you on this.”
Suggesting that The New York Times has tried to frame her as a “crazy lady,” Maher declared, “I agree with everything.” Noting that she has “criticized the widespread use of antidepressants,” he said, “I’m down with that!” And on the claim that she “called the distinction between ordinary sadness and clinical depression ‘artificial,’” Maher said he believes she has been mischaracterized.
“Sadness is a part of life!” Maher added. “You don’t always need a pill for sadness.”
“Absolutely,” Williamson replied. “There is a spectrum of normal human despair.” While there are plenty of “severe disappointments in life,” she said, “they are not a mental illness.”
Then, pivoting to the opioid crisis, Williamson said that if pharmaceutical companies are overprescribing those drugs, “I don’t know why we should just assume that in every other area, that Big Pharma is acting with the purest intent and concern with the common good.”
Nodding along, Maher said, “I have asked that question.”