Thursday on CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360,” anchor Anderson Cooper got into a heated exchange with 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful Marianne Williamson on her views on mental health and on anti-depressants.

Cooper said, “A few months after Robin Williams died by suicide, you posting something I’m putting on the screen, implying antidepressants were the cause of Williams’ death. You wrote the truth about antidepressant helpful for some, harmful for others. Then you linked to this article that was clearly suggesting antidepressants played a role in his death. Do you know who wrote that article? That was by an organization funded by the Church of Scientology, which doesn’t even believe in psychiatry, doesn’t believe in psychiatric medicine for even serious mental illness. They even have a museum in Hollywood called psychiatry, an industry of death.”

Williamson replied, “Anderson if somebody is helped by an antidepressant, I’m happy for them. And I have never argued that anybody who is on an antidepressant should get off an antidepressant.”

She continued,  “And not only that, I have always made it very clear, always made it very clear that if anything in my conversation makes people think twice about it, if, in fact, they are on it – that the last thing they should ever do is throw it away because getting off them, people must get off them – if they get off them – very, very carefully. So this idea that I, like I’m some Tom Cruise about antidepressants, I’m not, and I never have been.”

Cooper said, “To be sending a message about antidepressants in a blanket way or clinical depression. You’re saying you’re happy for somebody if it helps them. I don’t hear you saying, I encourage you, everybody, talk with a medical provider and see if this is just a regular sadness .”

Williamson said, “Talking to someone about sadness, I believe that someone who is clergy, someone who is a psychotherapist who is not coming from a psychopharmacological perspective, someone who is a spiritual person is just as qualified an expert to talk about issues of deep sadness, even depression. It has only been in the last few years that this idea of the medicalization of depression has come up. What are we pretending what we all know is true. We are living in a society now where somebody is going through just a normal breakup, and somebody said, do you think you should be on something?”

Cooper said, “You’re relying on the Church of Scientology for factual background to your argument, and that’s really not – would you appoint someone from the church of Scientology to be head of CDC if you were president?” he asked her.

Williamson said, “No, I would not. Also, I had my one glib comment that I have said I was sorry about. It was a podcast with Russell Brand, where I talked about something being a scam. And that was a mistake about that. ”

After reading Williamson’s tweet about Kate Spade, Cooper asked, “You do seem to be implying, A, Kate Spade was on antidepressants. I don’t think we have knowledge of, nor is it anybody’s business. You seem to be linking, in the end, famous people with antidepressants and suicide. And many people who are on antidepressants have had suicidal ideation long before they were taking anti-depressants.”

He added, “Just putting out a blanket tweet in the wake— on the day somebody has died, implying that they were on antidepressants and that’s what caused their suicide, that’s just seems irresponsible.”

Williamson said, “Well, Anderson, I could say the same thing to you given how many pharmaceutical companies advertise on your show.”

Cooper said, “I don’t know who advertises on my show. So I don’t know what pharmaceutical companies do. It is not of any interest to me. I’m sure it is to people in this company. But I don’t care. What I care about is people who are dying, and there is a stigma for people actually seeking medical help for something that could save their life.”

Williamson shot back, “You said to me a few minuted ago ‘with all due respect’ I’m sorry I feel very little respect here and very little opportunity to say what I believe. I think the person that had blanket statements said about them on this program is me. I have simply never had the blanket conversation you are suggesting I had. When it comes to people who are suicidal, I have a 35-year career working with people in despair — a 35-year career working with people in crisis. I had a 35-year career working with people in pain. I have people who’s psychiatrists sent to me to work with them. I have been up close and personal with people in their pain and despair for decades. The idea that I am gib about that is a complete mischaracterization.”

Cooper said, “I am not saying you are glib in any way. You are deadly serious about this, and you have very strong beliefs. I don’t understand some of your public statements.”

Williamson said, “Let me speak. Anderson, then let me speak. This is not a conversation we are having. You don’t let me explain. When people are taking anti-depressants who have had serious, serious pain and serious pain and depression in their lives. And they are helped by them, and I am happy for them. I am happy for them.”

Cooper said, “Clinically depressed people are not depressed just because the world is depressing. They have a chemical imbalance.”

Williamson said, “You are the one making the blanket statements here that there is notice particular scientific evidence to prove. You are talking about clinical depression as if there is a blood test. You can talk about chemical imbalance, but you can talk about chemical changes that come about through yoga and chemical changes through prayer, chemical changes that come about through sugar and nutrition.”

Cooper said, “We are on the same page about overprescription of drugs and aggressive marketing campaigns by big pharmaceutical companies, and young people should know the dangerous side-effects of some of these very powerful drugs. I think you have expressed your opinions tonight. Some of the language you used raised concerns. I think it is fair I ask the questions.”

Williamson said, “I think it would be fair for me to have a little more opportunity to answer them.”

Follow Pam Key on Twitter @pamkeyNEN

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