One day after Marianne Williamson’s bristled during a sharp exchange with Anderson Cooper on CNN, the Democratic presidential candidate who also got a feisty reception from the host of HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher.
Maher had crowed about the booking early in the show (when he announced that “the candidate everyone wants to get” as a guest was waiting backstage) but then their interview got off to chippy start when Maher scoffed at the validity of spiritual psychotherapy just a heartbeat after Williamson had described it as the conceptual cornerstone of her 35-year writing and lecturing career.
“That sounds,” Maher said, “like Scientology.” Williamson was aghast: “How can you even say that?” Maher wobbled a bit but didn’t back off much. “It just sounds like it, I’m not saying it is. I’m just suspicious when something is based on one book. That always worries me.”
Maher was alluding to Course of Miracles, the 1976 book by Helen Schucman that Williamson has cited as the North Star influence on her philosophy and career. Williamson gave him a brisk education on the topic of spirituality (i.e. she schooled Maher in front of God and/or everybody) and got a big ovation for punctuating the lecture with a subtle jab at Maher’s atheism.
“It is a book that is based on universal spiritual themes. It is not a religion. It does not claim any kind of monopoly on truth. It has no dogma, it has no doctrine. It talks about love and forgiveness and I think that so many of the people who are students of the Course of Miracles come from all religions and even no religions — people like you.”
Earlier in the day, Williamson deflected an unrelated Scientology reference with a tweet directed to her 2.7 million Twitter followers. In the tweet, Williamson implied that she is being misrepresented by opponents who don’t like her surge in prominence during the recent debates. “The machinery of mischaracterization is in high gear now,” she tweeted. “Gee, did I upset someone?”
Maher congratulated Williamson on being the most searched-for Democratic candidate on Google and he praised her for getting to the root of key issues instead of beating around the bush. The candidate took the opportunity to explain the focus of her campaign and its slogan: “Turning love into political force.”
“Out current political establishment is what I call ‘Yada yada yada’ politics is based in 20th Century thinking,” Williamson said. “This is now the 21st Century. And the 21st Century mindset we have a far more whole-person, holistic understanding of things. We understand there’s effect but there’s also cause.There’s external symptoms but there are also how people feel, how people think. There’s underlying forces and dynamics in people’s lives that must be changed if we are to transform one life.”
Williamson also framed the Trump administration as “a moral problem.”
Some other highlights from the show:
Maher on the frothy magic of Democratic hopeful Joe Biden and the comfort-food appeal of his campaign:”Joe is like nondairy creamer. Nobody likes it but in a jam it gets the job done…he’s like eating at a McDonalds when you’re in Europe.”
On the new era of voter expectations as represented by political rally chants:”Instead of ‘Yes we can!’ now it’s ‘What the f—?’
When a heckler shouted at Maher during the live broadcast on the East Coast (which is taped, edited and shown on a delayed broadcast on the West Coast at 10 p.m. local time), the comedian didn’t miss a beat: “You’ve made your point. I don’t know what it is but you made your point. I think it’s that you like Trump. A lot of people do. Check him for a gun.”
Maher on Trump: “The president is now above the law…I feel like, with impeachment, we’re in the ‘friend zone.’ We should’ve closed the deal a long time ago.”
New York Congressman Hakeem Jeffries was the top-of-show interview guest and the episode also featured a roundtable discussion featuring Maher, former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm, journalist Josh Barro (NPR’s Left, Right and Center) and first-time guest and former CIA analyst Buck Sexton (conservative radio show host, The Buck Sexton Show)