Democratic presidential candidate Marianne Williamson is apologizing and claiming that she “misspoke” after reportedly referring to vaccination mandates as “draconian” and “Orwellian.”
“To me, it’s no different than the abortion debate. The US government doesn’t tell any citizen, in my book, what they have to do with their body or their child,” Williamson said at an event Tuesday in Manchester, New Hampshire, according to a tweet from a NBC reporter.
Williamson, an author and spiritual adviser, apologized Wednesday for her comments.
“I understand that many vaccines are important and save lives. I recognize there are epidemics around the world that are stopped by vaccines,” Williamson said in a statement on Twitter. “I also understand some of the skepticism that abounds today about drugs which are rushed to market by Big Pharma. I am sorry that I made comments which sounded as though I question the validity of life-saving vaccines. That is not my feeling and I realize that I misspoke.”
On ABC’s “The View” Thursday, Williamson was asked whether she supports mandatory vaccinations.
“I understand that public safety must come first. But I also understand that we must have a balance between public safety and the issues of individual freedom,” Williamson said. “I do not trust the propaganda on either side.”
Then pushed by the hosts for a clearer answer, Williamson said, “I support vaccines.”
On Twitter, Williamson also pointed to her previous remarks about vaccines on HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher” in February 2015 and said Wednesday that she still views the issue the same way.
In her 2015 appearance on the comedian’s show, Williamson argued that “there’s a skepticism which is actually healthy on this issue of vaccinations.”
“I think there’s a difference between having skepticism about science and having skepticism about the pharmaceutical industry,” Williamson said then. “I think that … there’s a public health issue that overrides individual liberty here, even though I don’t want the government, as a rule, telling me what I can do and what I can’t do with my body for medical purposes.”
She added, though, that the “facts are in about measles … and we need to get our kids vaccinated.” She also shared that she had her daughter vaccinated.
Measles outbreaks in the United States continue to grow, rising to 1,044 cases nationwide so far this year. The number of measles cases this year marks the greatest number reported in the US since 1992 and since measles was declared eliminated in 2000, meaning it was no longer continuously transmitted in the country.
Though a long-shot candidate, Williamson will appear in the Democratic presidential debate on June 27.
She has also hit both the 65,000 unique-donor threshold and the polling threshold set by the Democratic National Committee.
CNN’s David Wright contributed to this report.