Wendy Williams's publicist says her 'focus at this time is on her health' amid news her show is ending for now

·5 min read
Wendy Williams's publicist says the talk show host needs
Wendy Williams's publicist says the talk show host needs "uplifting" as she prioritizes her health. (Photo: Theo Wargo/Getty Images)

A publicist for Wendy Williams says the TV personality is focusing on her health following last week's announcement that Sherri Shepard will be launching her own daytime talk show, Sherri, in the time slot that had been reserved for the long-running Wendy Williams Show. Shepard had been filling in as a guest host on Williams's show during the 57-year-old's months-long absence due to "ongoing health issues," which have included a breakthrough case of COVID-19 in September and what a rep described in October as "serious complications as a direct result of Graves' disease and her thyroid condition." The health issues resulted in the show's 13th season being pushed back a month and hosted by rotating guest stars until Shepard was named permanent guest host.

"Since Wendy is still not available to host the show as she continues on her road to recovery, we believe it is best for our fans, stations and advertising partners to start making this transition now," Debmar-Mercury co-presidents Mort Marcus and Ira Bernstein said in a statement last week explaining the decision to swap Williams's show with Shepard's new venture. "We hope to be able to work with Wendy again in the future, and continue to wish her a speedy and full recovery."

The news was met with a response from Williams's longtime spokesperson, Howard Bragman, which referenced the gossip queen's "health issues" and described her talk show as the "Maybe Wendy Show."

"It's been a challenging time for Wendy as she deals with her health issues," Bragman said. "She is incredibly grateful to Debmar-Mercury, to Sherri and everybody else who has supported the show through this time. She, more than anyone, understands the reality of syndicated television — you can't go to the marketplace and sell a show that's the 'Maybe Wendy Show.' She understands why this decision was made from a business point of view, and she has been assured by Debmar-Mercury that should her health get to a point where she can host again and should her desire be that she hosts again that she would be back on TV at that time."

But Williams — who resurfaced in mid-February to share a rare health update and assure fans that she's "doing OK" — later shared on Instagram that she had not authorized Bragman to speak on her behalf regarding her show, a response that prompted Bragman to question whether she had posted it herself. In a new statement from her publicist sent to Yahoo Entertainment this weekend, Bragman's comments are described as "shade directed towards Wendy," who is described as "going through a very human experience."

"The statement that was put out by the guy Howard was not in the best interest of Wendy," publicist Shawn Zanotti of Exact Publicity wrote. "You wouldn't refer to your client's show as the 'Maybe Wendy Show,' which was shade directed towards Wendy."

She continued, "To further go on to question the validity of her verified IG page, is even more proof that this was not in the best interest of Wendy — knowing he hasn't spoken to her. His social media post response is additional evidence that he hasn't had any recent communication with her by saying, 'so WHEN my old friend Wendy FaceTimes me personally.' It comes off as a bullying tactic and a forced response just to be a part of the conversation which shows it's more about him than about Wendy."

The statement, which comes amid reports of divisiveness between the star's various representatives, goes on to claim that Williams's lawyer, LaShawn Thomas, demanded that Bragman retract his statement.

"Howard initially released a statement saying it was on Wendy's behalf, but following the release, LaShawn sent a demand letter for a retraction of said statement due to the fact he was not given permission to release anything or to speak on her behalf," Zanotti wrote. "He then issued a statement on Debmar-Mercury's behalf using the EXACT same verbiage. He is attempting to insert himself into the conversation for his own recognition. I never release her statement without Wendy approving it first."

Citing that it was her "personal opinion right now," Zanotti added that Williams's "focus at this time is on her health and the case." The latter is a reference to the talk show host's legal battle against Wells Fargo, with Williams accusing the bank of denying her access to her accounts due to its concerns about her mental health following her former financial adviser Lori Schiller's claims that she was “of unsound mind.” Wells Fargo’s attorney David H. Pikus has called for a temporary guardian to be appointed, noting that the bank "has strong reason to believe that [Williams] is the victim of undue influence and financial exploitation." Williams, who has denied that she's being exploited, has filed for a temporary restraining order against Wells Fargo, accusing it of "causing imminent and irreparable financial harm to myself, my family and my business."

In a statement that claims that Williams has fired manager Bernie Thomas, Zanotti called on the public to "uplift" Williams amid her "public shaming."

"The focus right now should not be on the public shaming of Wendy Williams or the production company making a decision from 'a business point of view,'" the statement concludes, 'it should be on uplifting her while she is going through a very human experience. So, please send prayers and positivity to Wendy and her legal team who have bigger fish to fry!"

Earlier this month Williams's attorney issued a statement saying that the TV star — said to be recuperating in Miami with her son — "wants the world to know that she strenuously denies all allegations about her mental health and well-being. During this hiatus from the show, Wendy has employed holistic health professionals to help her reach optimal health during her treatment of Graves’ disease and thyroid concerns."

In her video posted to Instagram two weeks ago, Williams herself told fans not to rule her out: "I am going back stronger … I want to be all I can be and then get back to New York and get on down with the Wendy Williams Show."