Walker Bragman interviewed Williamson about her views on public health.

Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of interviewing 2024 Democratic presidential hopeful Marianne Williamson for OptOut. In a 24-minute interview, we spoke about public health.

Williamson is someone I have known for a couple years now and have come to appreciate as a progressive voice. She is a passionate speaker with a solid grounding in American history who shares my fascination with the New Deal Era.

Although sometimes dismissed as unserious, she has a firm grasp of the problems facing the country and is able to recall a time when neoliberal dogma did not dominate Washington policy-making.

As a candidate, she is running on a platform defined by aggressive government action, which if implemented, would go a long way to addressing major issues facing the U.S. She favors, for example, Medicare for all, universal paid leave, and a constitutional amendment to overturn the Citizens United v. FEC Supreme Court ruling, which allowed corporations to spend unlimited sums on politics. Williamson is also responsive to left-wing media, which is important for any candidate who hopes to inspire a progressive movement. (Williamson has been a public supporter of OptOut.)

Even so, her campaign has struggled to catch on and mark itself the successor to Sen. Bernie Sanders' insurgent bids from 2016 and 2020. Some of this difficulty is surely a reflection of an increasingly splintered left, wary of devoting energy to a primary against an incumbent Democrat. But not all of the blame can be laid on external forces.

Williamson has never held elected office and can come off as unpolished. Sometimes she struggles to distill her message into digestible soundbites and prefers broader analysis where specifics would be welcomed. Her campaign has also been plagued with staff turnover and reports that Williamson herself can be caustic and volatile, which she has denied. Other times, she has simply made unforced errors.

Last month, for example, during an appearance on the show Breaking Points, Williamson offered a tortured answer when asked about her positions on COVID-19 vaccines, saying she had been disappointed by how little conversation was “even allowed” about treatment, specifically ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine, which studies have repeatedly shown are not effective at treating COVID. She further suggested that elites in America were having one conversation while regular people were having another.

Asked directly if she believed that the COVID vaccines were effective at reducing severe illness and death (data shows they have been), she said that while there was “a very good argument” that they were, there were “risks” to the jabs that weren’t publicly disclosed. She then questioned the vaccine schedule generally.

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Unfounded vaccine skepticism has needlessly killed hundreds of thousands of Americans throughout the pandemic. While right-wing groups and Republican, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, have been the driving force behind anti-vaccine narratives, misinformation has taken hold in some corners of the left as well.

In April, anti-vaccine conspiracy theorist Robert Kennedy Jr. entered the Democratic presidential primary with surprising polling strength, leaning into the idea that he is anti-establishment and syphoning off some former Sanders supporters. Kennedy, who has been propped up by right-wing media and GOP donors, recently came under fire for suggesting that COVID may have been bioengineered to spare certain peoples–namely Jews.

This interview with Williamson was set up after I criticized her Breaking Points remarks. To her credit, she reached out and agreed to a sit down. In our discussion, which occurred on July 10, I pressed the candidate on her views of public health, COVID-19, and vaccines.

Full interview below:

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