Marianne Williamson was the ultimate meme fodder after night two of the Democratic debates, her new age-y ethos and theatrical speaking voice standing out in the sea of suits on the stage. The self-help author, spiritual leader, and activist was the top-searched 2020 candidate of the night, but it’s unclear whether the interest was because her opposition to endless war was inspiring or because everyone just wanted to know what all the healing crystals tweets were about.
Williamson is by far the most unconventional contender in the race for the White House. She most definitely owns a book about fluoride. But some of her politics are actually a refreshing addition to the election cycle: She’s a strong advocate for reducing child poverty in America, reducing our military presence abroad, and allocating reparations for descendants of slaves.
Here’s what she said during a CNN town hall in April:
You know, we don’t adequately fight — we don’t adequately fight climate change because of profits for fossil fuel companies. We don’t have universal health care because of short-term profits for health insurance companies and big pharma. We don’t have wage peace as much as we wage war because of short-term profits for defense contractors. And we don’t have commonsense gun safety legislation because, God forbid, it should cut into the short-term profits of gun manufacturers. That is immoral.
These are the types of positions those on the left can get behind. But once you delve into Williamson’s stances on science, medicine, and health, the glow of an eccentric but harmless woman who you might do an angel card reading with starts to dim.
Here’s a roundup of some of Williamson’s more controversial beliefs in the realm of health and science:
Williamson recently courted controversy after a campaign event where she compared mandatory vaccines to the struggle for bodily autonomy in the abortion fight. She said, “The U.S. government doesn’t tell any citizen, in my book, what they have to do with their body or their child.”
She attempted to backtrack on Twitter:
When asked to explain her vaccine skeptic stance on The View, Williamson insisted that she’s not against mandatory vaccines, but her disdain for Big Pharma clouds whatever trust she may have toward vaccinations:
[America has a] revolving door policy by which big pharma, the CDC, and the FDA are so cozy so that millions of Americans who are not anti-science and are not anti-vaccine have some deep concern. The days of blind faith in big pharma are over. The days of blind faith in the idea that our government agencies do the proper oversight, the proper advocacy for the American people against at times the overreach of profit-making industries that are putting money before people... that is not an irrational or unreasonable thing. [...]
She later added the following affirmation:
If I were president of the United States—when I’m president of the United States—there would be a commission of scientists learning so that the American people see what’s going on with these vaccines who are not paid by big pharma.
For the record, this scientific consensus already exists.
In her profile of Williamson, my colleague Esther Wang noted that Williamson’s 2012 book A Course in Weight Loss: 21 Spiritual Lessons for Surrendering Your Weight Forever recommends “putting your face ‘atop a picture of a beautiful body’ and then displaying those photos ‘in various places around your home.’” This advice reeks of thinspo, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Williamson’s questionable approaches to weight loss and body image.
A Course in Weight Loss also repeatedly frames eating as a “compulsion” and is littered with principles such as “The cause of your excess weight is in your mind” and “The cause of your excess weight is fear, which is a place in your mind where love is blocked.” The solution? Replacing fear with “an inestimable love” and “surrendering your weight to God.”
Williamson also wrote:
Tragically, however, those who have lost the most are often those who have gained the most back. What has happened is that they’ve been stymied by something their conscious minds could not control: the power of a compulsion that is headquartered not in the conscious but the subconscious mind.
Science journalist Erin Biba offered her own swift takedown of the “fat shaming” that Williamson’s book espouses. In a Twitter thread, Biba claimed that Williamson believes overweight people “lack spiritual intelligence.” Williamson replied, “I never, ever said or wrote such a thing.”
In return, Biba shared a screenshot from A Course in Weight Loss that more or less asserts that “spiritual intelligence” will help the body gain “natural intelligence.”
Assuming natural intelligence is a body that is better able to shed fat, Biba’s observation conclusion isn’t unfounded.
And for good measure:
Williamson believes depression treatment is too reliant on medication. While Americans have plenty of reasons to sow distrust in greedy pharmaceutical companies, in 2018 Tweets Williamson claimed that depression wasn’t stigmatized until Big Pharma doled out medications to curb it:
This sentiment was echoed in 2018 when Williamson was a guest on Russell Brand’s podcast “Under the Sun.” She insisted that there is “an art to navigating depression.”
Several replies took issue with Williamson’s characterization of depression, but Williamson stood her ground, asserting the benefits of meditation for balancing off-kilter brain chemistry.
She also promotes her book Tears to Triumph: The Spiritual Journey from Suffering to Enlightenment with an array of earnest but feeble motivational phrasing.
And don’t get her started on ADHD:
Basically, Williamson would have stopped Chernobyl.
Despite an otherwise progressive policy platform, it’s hard to ignore the suspicion that Williamson is just a skip and a hop away from a 14-part tweet thread about chemtrails.