Anderson Cooper confronts Marianne Williamson over past comments that antidepressants 'numb' emotions

Democratic presidential candidate and spiritual author Marianne Williamson appeared on CNN's Anderson Cooper 360° on Thursday night where the host grilled her on her past controversial comments regarding depression and antidepressants.

Democratic presidential hopeful US author and writer Marianne Williamson delivers her closing statement during the first round of the second Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season hosted by CNN at the Fox Theatre in Detroit, Michigan on July 30, 2019. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

During the tense exchange, Anderson Cooper questioned Williamson on her previous description of antidepressants as a way to "numb" and "mask" people's emotions, as well as her self-described "glib comment” in which she called clinical depression "a scam" while on a podcast in November 2018 with actor Russell Brand.

"There are some people who say that you’re actually contributing to that stigma [surrounding depression] by repeatedly saying that antidepressant drugs — you've used the word 'numb' or 'mask’ you,” Cooper said.

"Isn't the fact is that depression numbs you and masks you and that while some drugs have dangerous or unpleasant side effects, not all drugs 'numb' you or 'mask' you? And telling a seriously depressed person that if they take an antidepressant they’re going to be numbed, isn't that not a good message?" he asked.

Williamson, in response, agreed that it would be "a not good message” and said that it was a mischaracterization of her commentary. Instead, she says she was talking about the "normal spectrum of human despair," rather than clinical depression, adding that there is "value sometimes in feeling the sadness" of the trials of life.

Cooper pushed back, saying she called clinical depression “such a scam” on Brand’s podcast.

He also referenced an article that was shared on Williamson's Facebook page months after Robin Williams’ death by suicide in August 2014, which implied that antidepressants contributed to his death.

She wrote in the post, "The truth about antidepressants. Helpful for some, but harmful for others..."

Cooper pointed out the article was written by an organization funded by the Church of Scientology, which notably does not believe in psychiatry.

Williamson countered by telling Cooper that “if somebody is helped by an antidepressant, I'm happy for them.

“I have never argued that anybody who is on an antidepressant should get off an antidepressant," Williamson said. "This idea that I'm some Tom Cruise about antidepressants — I'm not, and I never have been."

Following the interview, Williamson took to Twitter to comment that she didn't expect such an "aggressive conversation" with Cooper, but that it was a "Good rehearsal for debating Donald Trump."

On Friday morning, Williamson clarified further, "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."

If you or someone you know are experiencing suicidal thoughts, call 911, or call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or text HOME to the Crisis Text Line at 741741.

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