This Day In History: June 24

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The actor Tom Cruise has an infamous interview with Matt Lauer, host of NBC’s morning talk show Today, on June 24, 2005. During the interview, Lauer challenged Cruise about critical comments the actor had made regarding the actress Brooke Shields’ use of anti-depressant medications to treat her post-partum depression.

One of Hollywood’s most bankable leading men since the late 1980s, Cruise was on Today to promote his forthcoming movie, The War of the Worlds, the director Steven Spielberg’s big-budget movie version of H.G. Wells’ classic science-fiction novel. Cruise was happy to talk about the movie, as well as his upcoming marriage to the actress Katie Holmes, whom he had proposed to atop the Eiffel Tower a short time before, following a whirlwind romance.

When Lauer asked Cruise about his criticism of Shields, however, the exchange got heated, as Cruise’s demeanor became visibly more serious and combative. As a leading member of the Church of Scientology, Cruise is against the use of anti-depressant drugs or psychiatric therapy of any kind. “I really care about Brooke Shields,” Cruise said. “…[But] there’s misinformation, and she doesn’t understand the history of psychiatry…psychiatry is a pseudoscience.” After chastising Lauer for being “glib” and not knowing enough about the topic, Cruise mentioned his research into the use of the prescription drug Ritalin, which is notably used to treat hyperactive children. When Lauer mentioned that he knew people for whom prescription drugs had worked, Cruise accused him of “advocating” Ritalin, to which Lauer got visibly frustrated and said “I am not….You’re telling me that your experiences with the people I know, which are zero, are more important than my experiences….And I’m telling you, I’ve lived with these people and they’re better.”

The Lauer interview marked the latest in what the Washington Post called at the time “a series of manic moments in public, in which the screen idol appeared to be losing his chiseled, steely reserve.” Another of these moments had occurred earlier that month on Oprah Winfrey’s talk show, where Cruise jumped up and down on a couch professing his love for Holmes. During the Today interview, Holmes sat in the wings watching “adoringly” as her fiance “Chernobyled” (again in the words of the Washington Post). Some blamed Cruise’s run of out-of-control public outbursts on the actor’s split with his longtime publicist, Pat Kingsley, in the spring of 2004 and his decision to entrust his sister, Lee Ann DeVette, with all his publicity. In November 2005, Cruise replaced DeVette with another veteran publicist, Paul Bloch.