In 2020, Marianne Williamson’s presidential campaign was plagued by poor morale and a miserable work culture, culminating in her firing the entire staff while she remained in the race.
Four years later, as the famed new age author mounts another longshot run for the Democratic nomination, the situation might somehow be worse.
Former aides told The Daily Beast that at least 10 staffers have already left Williamson’s campaign since she launched her primary challenge to President Joe Biden just two months ago, a major blow for a team that only started out with roughly two dozen people.
Three former aides, who spoke on condition of anonymity, painted a picture of an ironically nightmarish boss—“a self-help guru who won’t get help,” in the words of one ex-staffer.
The litany of alleged Williamson offenses is so extensive that “yelling is almost the least fatal for her,” one former aide said.
The candidate, who vowed in 2020 to “harness love” to defeat Donald Trump, frequently tears down staff with “demeaning” comments, according to one staffer, and subjects them to frequent outbursts.
During one of those outbursts, Williamson apparently got so frustrated that she started banging on a car. “At one point, someone said, ‘I can’t go over to her now because she’ll have another meltdown,’” one former aide recounted.
Williamson’s short temper was made even worse with what aides called a micromanaging style, stemming from “poor leadership skills” and “an inability to delegate properly.” Beyond that, sources described Williamson as egging on a cut-throat culture, instructing more senior staff to “chew out” more junior aides and “to overstep, to step on toes.”
“I’ve worked in dozens of high-pressure campaigns,” one former staffer said. “Never have I experienced this kind of a tinderbox.”
A spokesperson for the Williamson campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
As Williamson struggles to gain traction in her quixotic bid to deny Biden the 2024 Democratic nomination, turmoil in her campaign is threatening to overshadow her message and pierce the feel-good, self-help branding she has cultivated for decades.
In the messy 2020 Democratic primary, Williamson was never a serious contender, but she became something of a viral sensation for her offbeat debate performances and unconventional vibe.
Running against a strongly favored incumbent in 2024, Williamson’s campaign was almost over before it started, according to former staffers, with some feeling guilt over small donors “giving their hard-earned money to something that’s not real.”
Another former Williamson campaign aide described the entire operation as “a vanity campaign” with “no real plan” between now and the first votes of the Democratic primary, likely to be in New Hampshire’s contest some time in January. The handful of surveys of the 2024 Democratic primary show Williamson in the single digits, behind Biden’s only other challenger, the anti-vaccine activist Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.
While female politicians are often unfairly accused of being difficult bosses on the basis of behavior that is accepted from a male boss, these aides insisted that wasn’t the case with Williamson.
One former staffer was clear that, any issue employees were having with their work environment, Williamson was to blame. “All problems emanated from the very top,” this person said.
According to a Politico story released in March, that assessment was widely shared by veterans of her 2020 campaign. Some of the details in the story, which came just as she announced her new campaign, are strikingly similar to what sources told The Daily Beast about her 2024 campaign.
One former 2020 staffer, for instance, explained to Politico that Williamson was prone to “foaming, spitting, uncontrollable rage.” The article also detailed stories about Williamson repeatedly pounding on a car door so hard she had to be taken to urgent care, as well as having temper tantrums so loud in hotel rooms that hotel employees would check to see if things were OK.
But with little overlap between her 2020 and 2024 operations, this new round of Williamson staffers came to the campaign “as fans,” according to one staffer. Aides even went so far as to accept a proposal from former campaign manager Peter Daou to “even out” everyone’s pay at $6,000 per month.
“We all read that Politico story, and it seems like she hasn’t learned anything,” one of the former staffers said. “I can’t say that I’ve seen her throw anything, but she demeans her staff in front of other people. It is not private; it is public.”
While Williamson’s short temper was her staff’s primary complaint, aides did note that her refusal to use the same technology as the rest of the campaign was also a frustration.
The candidate refuses to use the digital messaging app Slack, where the majority of internal communication takes place in her operation. But sometimes the 70-year-old’s struggles with technology could also reveal her other flaws. Staff said an errant tweet from April 28 that she meant to email to Jason Call, her since departed deputy campaign manager, best typified her demeaning tone.
The tweet was quickly deleted, but staffers said it was indicative of how Williamson communicates with others.
Out of the candidate’s view, subordinates began commiserating in group chats off Slack, growing increasingly disillusioned over their boss’s continued tirades, scattershot demands, and early morning emails.
“It’s micromanage-y on schedules, micromanage-y when it comes to being at actual events,” one of the former staffers said. “She will go up to staffers and say ‘Why are you not handing out pom cards?” this person said, referring to the literature campaigns hand out. “Why are you not telling this woman I’ll be at this place at this time.’”
Staffers frequently heard from Daou that the campaign “had no money,” worsening morale for the remaining team and sparking questions over his proposal for everyone to have equal salaries.
When asked why they joined the campaign after hearing about Williamson’s reputation for poor management, one of the former aides said they felt blinded by the candidate’s celebrity.
“People join up as fans, and then they get burned,” the former staffer said. “She burns through people quickly.”