Presidential candidate and inspirational author Marianne Williamson has been a dark horse since she declared her run in late January, but things were looking up when it was announced she’d take the stage alongside Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigieg, and Kamala Harris on night two of the Democratic debates next week.
But before she could make headlines for her debate performance, Williamson drew ire for coming off like an anti-vaxxer at a campaign rally in Manchester, New Hampshire, this week, calling mandatory vaccination policies “Orwellian” and “draconian.”
“To me, it’s no different than the abortion debate,” she said. “The U.S. government doesn’t tell any citizens, in my book, what they have to do with their body or their child.”
The anti-vax movement has gained traction over past decade, particularly among parents who won’t vaccinate their children for religious reasons and those who believe that inoculating against measles, rubella, and mumps somehow leads to autism. As 28 U.S. states struggle against measles outbreaks, statements that seem sympathetic toward the movement have landed people, politicians and otherwise, in hot water. Just last week, actress Jessica Biel caught flack for traveling to Sacramento to lobby against a strengthening of California’s vaccination mandate.
In a statement to Los Angeles, Williamson toned dialed back her previous statement, explaining that she has issues with Big Pharma more than vaccines:
“I understand that many vaccines are important and save lives. I recognize there are epidemics around the world that are stopped by vaccines. 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.”
Complicating matters is an appearance Williamson made on Real Time with Bill Maher in 2015, during which she called skepticism regarding vaccines “healthy.” She has, though, been speaking out about her issues with Big Pharma in a number of books and speeches over the years.
Some tweets in response to the hubbub this week brought up Williamson’s use of the term “Orwellian.” Incidentally, 1984 author George Orwell died in his 40s of tuberculosis, which is at an all-time low in the U.S. thanks to—you guessed it—vaccines.
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