Discussing vaccines is a third rail in my social circles. Whenever I write or speak about it, I’ve come to expect to lose friends. Anti-vaxers are often as angrily dogmatic as other cultural outliers, like vegans, anti-GMO kooks, and flat-earthers. So, why do I run the risk of angering friends and family when they’re not willing to listen to reason or logic to begin with and when they consider words like “peer-reviewed studies” as blasphemous? Well, because when the promotion of dangerous anti-vaccine conspiracies involves a national figure, I believe that it’s important to sound the warning bell for those who don’t create hats out of tin foil. I believe that it’s important that the public at large is made aware that Democratic presidential hopeful Marianne Williamson was promoting those conspiracy theories on her radio show not too long ago.
While combing through audio files of Williamson’s radio show, CNN’s Kfile uncovered her anti-vaxer words. During a 2012 episode titled “Living Miraculously,” the author, teacher, and noted speaker made the claim that she knew people who had been vaccinated and then later diagnosed with autism. That claim is dangerous because it falsely connects vaccines and autism, encouraging parents to make decisions that not only endanger the health of their own children, but of the broader community. Unfortunately, Williamson also encouraged parents to “do your due diligence” regarding vaccines.
That warning is the soft-sell for the anti-vaxers who want to come across as moderate and still connected to scientific fact. What they actually mean is to “do your due diligence” by only reading anti-vaxer propaganda that supports the conspiracy theories. Bringing up peer-reviewed studies that demonstrate the effectiveness and safety of vaccines will often reveal that the “soft-sell” was hiding an agenda.
In response to CNN, Marianne Williamson’s spokesperson said, “As with any radio show host, Williamson spoke with a variety of guests from all walks of life and some were provocative. This guest had a specific point of view on the issue, but it’s clear from Williamson’s comments that she was neutral. For example, when someone like Kellyanne Conway is interviewed on CNN, we don’t assume the host agrees with everything she says.”
However, as CNN correctly points out:
Williamson’s comments on vaccines shed new light on positions she has downplayed since running for president. Williamson issued an apology earlier this year after calling mandatory vaccines “Orwellian” and “draconian,” writing in a tweet that she understood “many vaccines are important and save lives.” Williamson described herself in an interview with MSNBC as “pro-vaccination, pro-medicine, pro-science.”But her comments on her radio program in 2012 show that she was willing to entertain and give credence to claims about vaccines that have been roundly criticized as unfounded and dangerous by scientists and medical professionals.