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Wendy Williams returned to her eponymous daytime talk show on Monday after taking an extended hiatus to focus on her health. The host posed her famous catchphrase to her Wendy Williams Show audience to open the show and when they asked her, “How you doin’?” in return, Williams replied, “I’m doing better now!” Taking her seat before her Hot Topics segment, she added, “Thank you, I missed you too! I didn’t know what to expect today — thank you so much for waiting for us.”
Williams — who suffers from Graves’ disease, an autoimmune condition that causes hyperthyroidism — then shared details about the personal reasons that kept her off the air for more than three months, saying she is “not exactly a hypochondriac but I might be a hypa,” and adding that she loves doctors and respects the medicinal community.
“We were only supposed to be off for two weeks for Christmas vacation,” she explained of when she first announced she would be taking a TV break starting Dec. 20. “Towards the end of the two weeks, I start to feel thyroid-ish. Well, they’re still adjusting my meds and, if you don’t know about thyroid disease, it’s a lifetime thing and they’re always adjusting and always doing stuff and it can really screw you over.”
She continued. “So, they’re adjusting my thyroid meds and the eyeball is attached to my thyroid, which is my Graves’ disease, and then, you know, I always have an equilibrium thing with my vertigo and a million other things. And I’m the kind of patient, if I cough, I’m thinking I’m dying. I can’t even tell you how many doctors I have but I want to shout out to each and every one of you — thank you so much.”
Williams then said that she had MRIs, CAT scans and multiple tests administered. “[I was] running on the treadmill and doing my blood pressure at the same time people were calling from the show and asking me stuff. I’m 54 and, not for nothing, even though you feel 25, honey, you know, you’re still your age on the inside,” she said.
Making her next announcement to cheers from the audience, Williams added, “I have a plethora of doctors on my medical team and I’m happy to tell you that I am doing swell!”
She also noted that her son, Kevin Hunter Jr., accompanies her to her doctor appointments, and she shot down reports of strife between her and her husband of 21 years, Kevin Hunter. Explaining that she needed to take more time off to focus on all aspects of her health, she said, “We’re spending time as a family and I just wanted to take some time for myself. You know I am my own best friend. So, I’m at home and taking my thyroid meds and meditating. I’m going to the gym seven days a week for two hours a day. I don’t know how this outfit is reading on TV but mother has not gained a pound.”
Williams related her personal experiences to healthcare issues for viewers across the country. “But you really do have to take care of yourself. One of the things that really does suck about our country is that we don’t have proper medical care,” she said. “I know that many people watching, even if you have health insurance, you don’t go to the doctors. And if you don’t, you have no doctor to go to. But why don’t you go to Ambicare? Those people in the emergency area, they’re nice. You go there, act polite. Treat people with kindness. Bring a bunch of magazines so you’re not cutting lines and everything and before you know it, you’re like a regular customer at Ambicare. Until our country gets it right and everyone gets proper medical care.”
She concluded her opening statement by urging viewers to take care of themselves like she did, and she also apologized that it took “almost 40 or 50″ days” for her to return. “I know it’s been a long time, I’m sorry! But I have to say, it’s not going to happen anymore,” she said, causing a roar of cheers from the crowd. “And I feel good!”
Williams then dove into her list of Hot Topics and first up was the Jussie Smollett case that unfolded while she was out. “It’s the story that won’t stop,” she said.
She explained that, before this happened, the actor was a friend of the show and recently came on as a guest and to perform to promote his R&B album. “He talked so nice on the couch and was all cute and regular with his sexuality. You know, he’s out of the closet and cute as a doll. He’s smart,” she began. “You would think this kid has it all going on in his entire life. But in actuality, he’s been charged with federal disorderly conduct for allegedly falsifying stories to the police.”
“He maintains his innocence,” she said of the Empire star before sharing her take. “I gotta tell you — I think that Jussie is guilty.”
Williams said that “when I first heard this story, I was like, ‘Guilty.’ I wasn’t one of those wafflers. And then as the story started to build, I kept saying to myself, ‘Why?’ … What’s shocking to me is that I believe he was intensely insecure about his role on Empire. I do believe he was probably asking for more money.”
As The Hollywood Reporter previously reported, Smollett started out making $40,000 to $50,000 per episode, but was recently paid $125,000 per episode. By comparison, stars Terence Howard and Taraji P. Henson started out earning in the $110,000-$120,000 per-episode range and, in 2016, were elevated to the $225,000-$250,000 ballpark.
Williams then moved on to other topics — including motherhood, fame and her astonishment at how The Wendy Williams show has maintained relevancy for a decade — but then jumped back in the Smollett scandal.
“Do I think he’s guilty, do I think he’s innocent? Here’s what I think — I want justice to be served. I mean, they got the texts from the African boys with the nice bodies,” she said of Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo, the Nigerian-American siblings Smollett allegedly paid to stage a brutal, homophobic and racially charged attack on him in Chicago in January. “The police commissioner of Chicago was up in arms, the FBI is all over this case. I just want justice to be served and Jussie goes to court March 13. So, we’re back and I’m here to report to you.”
After Hot Topics, Williams turned talk to HBO’s Leaving Neverland doc, which explores the child sexual abuse allegations that plagued Michael Jackson throughout his career. “I don’t believe a word of anything in this documentary,” she said after the claims were recapped. “Michael is no innocent, but that’s not him.”
While she said she believes claims that he took showers in the nude with the then-underage accusers and that sleepovers took place with young boys, she said she does not “believe that there was any sexual touching.”
Echoing statements previously released by the Jackson estate, Williams called out Jackson’s accusers Wade Robson and James Safechuck, who allege they were sexually abused by Jackson as young boys. “I do believe that this is a money grab for the families,” Williams said, despite Robson and Safechuck receiving no monetary compensation for participating in the project.
Today’s episode marks Williams’ first time back on TV since December, when she slurred her words and apologized to fans for a “less than stellar” show. “I sincerely apologize if you feel that today’s show was less than stellar,” she wrote on Instagram at the time. “I’m on your TV screens every day wanting to spread laughter, entertainment and cheer. As I reported earlier in the week, I have a hairline fracture on my upper arm, which hurts like hell.”
The TV host and author has been open about her health struggles in recent years. Williams, who revealed her Graves’ disease diagnosis in 2018, said that she took medication in an attempt to conquer the pain caused by the autoimmune disorder and “deliver a great show” — which she later admitted was poor judgment and then promised a “better Wendy in 2019.”
During her hiatus, a variety of hosts filled in for Williams, including Jerry O’Connell, Nick Cannon, Bevy Smith and Sherri Shepherd, among others. When it was announced that Williams would be returning March 4, she thanked those — including syndication giant Debmar-Mercury — who helped keep the show afloat while she was away: “Salute to Debmar-Mercury for believing from the start and thanks to my staff for tirelessly holding it down for me.” She echoed those thanks when signing off on Monday.
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