Marianne Williamson’s ‘abusive’ treatment of 2020 campaign staff revealed
Interviewees say the bestselling author and spiritual advisor subjected her employees to unpredictable and explosive bouts of anger. They said Williamson could be cruel and demeaning to her staff and her behavior went far beyond the typical stress of a grueling presidential cycle.
“It would be foaming, spitting, uncontrollable rage,” said a former staffer who, like most people who spoke with POLITICO, was granted anonymity due to fear of being sued for breach of non-disclosure agreements. “It was traumatic. And the experience, in the end, was terrifying.
Williamson would throw his phone at staffers, according to three of those former staffers. Her outbursts could be so loud that two former aides recounted at least four occasions when hotel staff knocked on her door to check on the situation. In one instance, Williamson got so mad at the logistics of a South Carolina campaign trip that she felt poorly planned that she pounded on a car door until her hand started to stick. swell, according to four former staffers. Ultimately, she had to go to an urgent care facility, they said. The 12 former staff members interviewed recalled instances of Williamson yelling at people until they started crying.
When presented with details of POLITICO’s reporting, Paul Hodes, a former US congressman who served as Williamson’s 2020 New Hampshire state executive, said those descriptions reflected his own experience working with She.
“These reports of Ms. Williamson’s behavior are consistent with my observations, consistent with contemporaneous discussions I have had of her conduct with staff members, and entirely consistent with my own personal experience with her behavior on multiple occasions,” did he declare.
In an email to POLITICO, Williamson said such accusations of her behavior were “libelous” and “categorically false.”
“Former staffers trying to score points with the political establishment by smearing me might be good for their careers, but the intention is to distract from the important issues facing the American people,” a- she declared. “This presidential campaign expects concerted efforts to dismiss and denigrate us. But the amplification of outright lies shouldn’t happen.
In the same email, Williamson denied ever throwing a phone at staff members. But she admitted she went to urgent care after getting upset and hitting her hand on a car door, but said a ‘car door is not a person. I would never physically harm anyone. She also acknowledged that there was an occasion when she raised her voice in a hotel room and someone came to see what was going on. “I find it hard to believe people in politics have never raised their voices before,” she said.
Former staff members interviewed noted that harsh criticism from bosses tends to be unfairly directed at female leaders. But they also pointed out that Williamson’s behavior was beyond acceptable, regardless of gender. Although Williamson is unlikely to defeat President Joe Biden in the 2024 Democratic presidential primary, they said they were motivated to come forward now to warn people who were considering working on his campaign about his treatment of staff. .
Those former aides said Williamson’s behavior was hard to predict. She berated staff members for seemingly unimportant things, such as whether they had booked a hotel room with a walk-in shower and not a bath, they said. She would tell her staff to cancel an event, only to change her mind a day later and accuse them of trying to undermine her campaign. She was obsessed with the physical appearance of others and ridiculed staff members for being overweight, according to four former aides. Williamson said she “never made fun of anyone for her weight.”
“She would be caught in these vicious emotional loops where she would scream and scream hysterically,” said a second former staffer. “It was day after day after day. It wasn’t that she was having a bad day or a bad time. It was just boom, boom, boom – and often for no legitimate reason.
During her year-long run, Williamson burned two campaign managers, several state managers, field organizers and volunteers. Some were fired, but others said they quit because of the culture of the countryside.
In a resignation email sent to Williamson on August 14, 2019, then-Iowa State campaign manager Robert Becker wrote that Williamson’s treatment of staff was “demeaning, abusive, dehumanizing and unacceptable. “, according to a copy of the email exchange. with Williamson obtained by POLITICO. Becker, who was a controversial recruit due to an earlier allegation that he forcibly kissed a subordinate while working on Sen. Bernie Sanders’ Democratic presidential campaign in 2016, added, “I can’t faith to subject future campaign recruits to this kind of vitriol. For 30 years I’ve had zero tolerance for workplace bullying, and that has to include the principle.
Williamson responded via email, “I jumped into a limb for you, but more importantly, I had no idea you would have seen me that way… Hope I learn from what you have said, and I hope you will not say such things to others.”
Becker did not respond to POLITICO’s multiple requests for comment. POLITICO authenticated the emails with a former Williamson staffer.
Williamson worried that her staff would go behind her back and tell reporters about her behavior, according to six former staffers, who said she required campaign workers to sign nondisclosure agreements and made it clear that they would be strictly enforced. At one point in 2019, she suggested monitoring staffers’ phones, according to one, but never followed through on the idea. Williamson denied ever suggesting doing such a thing.
“The message was, ‘don’t laugh at me because I’m going to make your life hell’. So nobody fucked her,” said a third former aide.
Campaigns often use NDAs to protect proprietary information from public disclosure. But former aides say Williamson’s use of NDAs went beyond his full-time campaign staff. These aides said Williamson’s personal assistant traveled with readily available NDAs and would ask taxi drivers and other service industry workers to sign them if Williamson lost his temper in front of them. Williamson also denied that charge. However, two former staff members said they witnessed this on several occasions after Williamson began berating staff in taxis to and from fundraisers and media events in New York.
“There was a period after the end of the campaign where there were intense traumatic connections,” said a fourth former campaign aide. “It was like, ‘What did we just go through?'”
Campaign staff had conversations with each other about how to approach Williamson to seek help for his behavior. But most said they thought it would be an uphill battle given Williamson’s history of skepticism about mental health and antidepressants. Many said they felt there was no way to talk to Williamson about such sensitive topics without opening up to his verbal attacks.
“Her views on the pharmaceutical industry, those views informed her personal actions and not getting the drugs and help she needed,” the second former aide said.
Although Williamson’s behavior during the 2020 campaign has not been previously reported, it reflects news reports from 30 years ago when Williamson’s popularity as a spiritual guru took off among major Hollywood celebrities following the release of his first book, “A Return to Love”.
A 1992 People magazine article describing Williamson said she had “anger and an uncontrolled ego, as well as a cruelly abrasive management style” and quoted a former associate who called Williamson a “tyrant”. A Los Angeles Times article published the same year reported that people who had worked with Williamson described her as having “an explosive temper that bursts indiscriminately”.
Still, his behavior came as a shock to most of his 2020 campaign staff, the majority of whom had a political background and only knew Williamson through his best-selling books and public speaking events. encouraging people to harness the power of love and learn to forgive.
Some people said they joined the campaign simply because they needed a job and Williamson offered one. Others said they thought there was room in the race for a dark horse candidate to push people, including Biden, on issues like reparations. And some said Williamson’s books on compassion and forgiveness helped them through their own struggles with divorce, addiction and the loss of family members.
Instead, they came away feeling emotionally tormented.
“It’s cliché, but all I can say is don’t meet your heroes,” said a fifth former staffer.