Democratic presidential candidate Marianne Williamson on Thursday apologized for calling clinical depression a scam in past comments, but defended other controversial statements about antidepressants.
Williamson, a spiritual book author, has attracted increased attention due to her quirky debate performances and emotionally-oriented platform. During the CNN debate Wednesday night, she was the only candidate on the stage to offer a specific financial proposal on reparations for the descendants of enslaved Africans – but has since offered vague answers as to how such a plan would be financed.
When asked by CNN’s Anderson Cooper about her use of terms like “numb” and “mask” to describe antidepressants, Williamson came out against telling a seriously depressed person that taking an antidepressant would numb them.
“I think that would be a not good message and I think I’ve never given that message. That’s just never the way I’ve spoken and it is a complete mischaracterization of my commentary,” she said, adding that she had commented on “a normal spectrum of human despair.”
Williamson argued that “there is value sometimes in feeling the sadness” of difficult events as a part of life.
“So what I speak to is not serious – what is today called clinical depression, although I have questioned sometimes how that is looked at,” she said.
On Friday, Williamson took to Twitter to clarify her comments on mental health, tweeting, “So let’s state it again. I’m pro medicine. I’m pro science. I’ve never told anyone not to take medicine. I’ve never fat-shamed anyone. And today there’s a new one: no I don’t support Scientology. The machinery of mischaracterization is in high gear now. Gee, did I upset someone?”
Later Friday, Williamson’s campaign released a statement “on Science, Mental Health, and Antidepressants.”
“Williamson has worked with many, many thousands of people in crisis. Some have medical conditions that require and are helped by mental health medications.” the statement reads.
“Williamson is speaking as a concerned American citizen and presidential candidate; she stays in her lane and does not weigh in on the diagnosis of any individual regarding their medical or mental health condition.”
Williamson also apologized Thursday in the interview for previously calling clinical depression “a scam” while on a podcast, acknowledging that it was “a glib comment” that was “wrong of me to say.”
When pressed by Cooper, Williamson did not directly address her previous implications that antidepressants were a factor in late comedian Robin Williams’ death.
“I have never argued that anybody who is on an antidepressant should get off an antidepressant,” she said, adding that she was not “some Tom Cruise about antidepressants.”
When Cooper asked about Williamson’s comments after late fashion designer Kate Spade’s death – in which she wondered “how many public personalities on antidepressants have to hang themselves before the FDA does something” – Williamson referenced Food and Drug Administration warnings that antidepressants could increase suicidal ideations for patients under 25.
Williamson also argued that a clergy member or “a spiritual person is just as qualified an expert to talk about issues of deep sadness, even depression” as a medical professional.
“I have been up close and personal with people in their pain and in their despair for decades. And the idea that I am glib about that conversation is a complete mischaracterization and misrepresentation of my career,” she said.
Williamson appeared to find the interview on her previous comments “aggressive” but useful debate practice.
“I didn’t expect such an aggressive conversation with @AC360 but I figure it’s good rehearsal for debating Donald Trump,” she tweeted Thursday.
CNN’s Dana Bash contributed to this report.