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Fox News Host Calls Robin Williams a ‘Coward’ After His Apparent Suicide

The death of Robin Williams on Monday shocked a nation who had delighted in his comedy performances for years.

Just hours after his death was announced, like many networks, Fox News ran a touching tribute to the star to express the nation’s loss. The commentary that followed afterwards, however, was downright shocking.

Claiming to be thinking of Williams’ daughter, Zelda, host Shephard Smith hinted that it was selfish for Williams to take his own life.

“One of the children he so loved, one of the children grieving tonight,” Smith said. “Because their father killed himself in a fit of depression.”

He then continued that he could not imagine what cowardly demon inside Williams would make him hurt his children in such a way.

“It’s hard to imagine, isn’t it?” the Fox host continued on. “You could love three little things so much, watch them grow, they’re in their mid-20s, and they’re inspiring you, and exciting you, and they fill you up with the kind of joy you could never have known.”

He then outright called Williams a coward for ending his life.

“And yet, something inside you is so horrible or you’re such a coward or whatever the reason that you decide that you have to end it. Robin Williams, at 63, did that today.”

While certainly hurtful to the Williams’ family, Smith’s comments are the most damaging because they perpetuate the myth that depression is a sign of weakness and selfishness among sufferers.

After Williams’ death, Forbes published an article countering such  damaging and uninformed views in hopes to dispel such notions.

“Part of the stigma surrounding depression is that others will see it as a sign of weakness,” the article read, citing the National Institute of Mental Health. “Yet we don’t accuse someone suffering from heart disease or MS of being weak; we rightly acknowledge those as illnesses that affect a wide range of people.”

Forbes also clarified those with depression often don’t have a clear trigger and they aren’t just really, really sad.

“These periods can manifest inexplicably, even when life events seem generally positive. (This is another reason why depression and sadness are not synonymous.),” the Forbes article stressed.

Smith’s statements about Williams being a coward, then, were not just mean, they were outright misinformation and potentially dangerous to those who suffer from depression and already feel stigmatized by their illness.

Update: Smith has since apologized for making these remarks.

Photo Credit: Photographer’s Mate Airman Milosz Retersk

About the author

Tamar is a New York based freelance writer and photographer whose work has appeared in over 15 publications. You can catch her work regularly on Issue Hawk, Latest, Jspace, and MediaGlobal.