Girlfriend, you are so on … the warpath?
On Thursday, Politico reported that Democratic presidential hopeful Marianne Williamson, contra to her reputation as a warm-and-fuzzy spiritual guru, has been accused of being an abusive boss. The outlet spoke to 12 people who worked for Williamson’s 2020 campaign, and they described someone prone to “unpredictable, explosive episodes of anger” that reportedly went “far beyond the typical stress of a grueling presidential cycle.”
Politico alleged that Williamson threw her phone at staffers, screamed at them until they cried, and once pounded her hand on a car door so hard that it swelled and she had to go to urgent care. Williamson did not deny the latter incident, but offered as a defense that a “car door is not a person.” True. Staffers also told Politico that Williamson frequently mocked overweight people and other aspects of staffers’ physical appearances. In addition, she allegedly made staffers sign nondisclosure agreements to dissuade them from exposing her behavior, as well as the occasional cab driver or service worker she berated. According to the report, minor inconveniences like getting booked in a hotel room with a shower instead of a bathtub could set her off.
Williamson disputed the report and several details within it, but whispers of angry behavior have followed her around for decades. The publication linked to several news stories from 1992, when she first rose to fame, that made similar allegations, describing her as a “tyrant” with an “explosive temper.” Not exactly what you expect to hear about a figure whose central message is about empathy and the power of choosing love over fear! Then again, she did once call herself a “bitch for God.”
It doesn’t get much more ironic than pinning charges of cruelty on Williamson, who has written and spoken at length about how love is the only thing that’ll save us. In a 2019 Democratic debate, she addressed then-President Trump by saying, “Mr. President, if you’re listening, you have harnessed fear for political purposes, and only love can cast that out. I am going to harness love for political purposes, and sir, love will win.” One of her signature campaign promises was even to create a Department of Peace. But she’s occasionally shared her thoughts about anger, too. She has a cassette audiobook all about it: Marianne Williamson on Dealing With Anger. Funnily enough, it was also released in 1992, the same year her “explosive temper” made the news.
The cassette is out of print, but its Amazon reviews offer a flavor of its content: “I am not sure how to rate this tape since the sound on it is very bad I keep hearing an echo on it marianne’s voice on top of marianne’s voice,” one listener wrote. (Two stars.) “THIS WAS NOT AT ALL WHAT I WAS EXPECTING; I WAS LOOKING FOR WAYS TO EXPLORE ANGER IN SITUATIONS THAT I COULD RELATE TO, BUT I WAS ASKED REPEATEDLY TO PRAY OR TURN OVER MY FEELINGS TO GOD,” went another. (Two stars again.)
But the audiobook also scored several five-star reviews. “As always, Marianne takes a difficult spiritual topic such as anger and makes things simple and uplifting,” one reads. “She calls it like it is, using her own experiences (and failures) to assure one and all that we are the same. Pretending anger doesn’t exist is not spiritual.” For whatever it’s worth, Williamson hasn’t exactly swept her experiences and failures with anger under the rug.
In fact, the word anger appears 38 times in Williamson’s most famous book, 1992’s A Return to Love. (Angry appears 42 times.) She sometimes describes herself as someone who used to be quite angry, actually: “It amuses me to think how angry I used to get when people wouldn’t sign my peace petitions,” she wrote. She preaches understanding anger and choosing love instead, but she occasionally makes anger sound kind of awesome in doing so: “It’s easy to forgive people who have never done anything to make us angry,” the book reads. “People who do make us angry, however, are our most important teachers.” On Twitter, she’s called anger the “the white sugar of political activism” because “it gives you an adrenaline high but then you’ll crash.”
Is it possible these are the words of a rageaholic admitting that her anger is a problem? Of course. But it’s also possible that we’re holding her anger up to an unfair microscope: As Politico pointed out, female leaders tend to get more scrutiny for being harsh in work environments than male leaders do. (See Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Rep. Katie Porter for reference.) Still, this doesn’t excuse bad behavior, and the sources Politico spoke to said Williamson’s actions were unacceptable regardless. Clearly, it’s been hard for Williamson to take her own advice to “choose love.”
In an interview with BBC News, Williamson called the Politico article a “hit piece.” “If I can be a bitch at the office at times, I don’t think anybody’s happy about that,” she said, “but I think anybody reading that can measure that against what is normal in politics. … I’m not running for sainthood here. I’m running for president.”
Speaking of that, it’s unclear how these allegations are going to affect Williamson’s 2024 campaign, which, to be honest, never had much of a chance to begin with. Don’t tell her I said that, though—the last thing I want to do is get on her bad side.