Wendy Williams Reacts to 'Overwhelming' Support Following Primary Progressive Aphasia and Dementia Diagnosis

The TV personality told ET that she has been 'overwhelmed' by support since sharing her diagnosis.

As fans of Wendy Williams gear up to learn more about the former daytime talk show host's life since stepping out of the public eye in the Lifetime documentary, Where Is Wendy Williams? her care team reveals that she was diagnosed in 2023 with primary progressive aphasia and frontotemporal dementia.

In a press release sent out on Thursday, Williams' care team wrote that they were revealing the former talk show host's diagnosis in an attempt "to correct inaccurate and hurtful rumors about her health.

"Over the past few years, questions have been raised at times about Wendy's ability to process information and many have speculated about Wendy's condition, particularly when she began to lose words, act erratically at times, and have difficulty understanding financial transactions," the release states. It added that the decision to share this news was difficult, but in doing so, Williams and her team are hoping to raise awareness about aphasia and FTD.

"In 2023, after undergoing a battery of medical tests, Wendy was officially diagnosed with primary progressive aphasia and frontotemporal dementia (FTD)...Wendy would not have received confirmation of these diagnoses were it not for the diligence of her current care team, who she chose, and the extraordinary work of the specialists at Weill Cornell Medicine. Receiving a diagnosis has enabled Wendy to receive the medical care she requires," the statement continues. 

"Wendy is still able to do many things for herself. Most importantly she maintains her trademark sense of humor and is receiving the care she requires to make sure she is protected and that her needs are addressed. She is appreciative of the many kind thoughts and good wishes being sent her way," the release concludes.

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Days later, Williams herself released a statement to ET, which read, "I want to say I have immense gratitude for the love and kind words I have received after sharing my diagnosis of Aphasia and Frontotemporal Dementia (FTD)."

"Let me say, wow!  Your response has been overwhelming. The messages shared with me have touched me, reminding me of the power of unity and the need for compassion," the statement continued. "I hope that others with FTD may benefit from my story."

Williams' statement concluded, "I want to also thank the Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration for their kind words of support and their extraordinary efforts to raise awareness of FTD. I continue to need personal space and peace to thrive.  Please just know that your positivity and encouragement are deeply appreciated."

ET previously spoke with Dr. Allison Reiss, an Alzheimer's Foundation of America's Medical, Scientific and Memory Screening Advisory Board Member, after action star Bruce Willis was diagnosed with FTD last year, and she explained more about the condition. 

"It's a group of diseases that have the common factor that the brain loses brain cells, brain cells die [and there is] neuro degeneration," Reiss said. "We don't understand why, but they die in specific areas."

According to Reiss, the "hodgepodge of different things that have been put together" leads to "a lot of devastating consequences."

Ultimately, she said, everything "just gets more difficult" as "the problem spreads and gets worse."

"As it gets worse, you can't ignore it or deny it. You have to adjust as best you can to it," Reiss said. "... It just progresses and progresses until at the very end... you pretty much lose everything, which is so sad and tragic. The essence of self you can't reach anymore at the end."

"We know so little about it. We just know that frontotemporal dementia is the most common type of dimension in younger people, like 40 to 60, and some of it is inherited," Reiss stated. "There are inherited versions, but mostly it's just sporadic. It just comes on [in] certain people, and we don't have a reason, and we don't have a cause, and we don't have a treatment."

Reiss noted that, ultimately, frontotemporal dementia "definitely does shorten" a person's lifespan. Even so, she encouraged families to maintain hope through the challenging times.

"To all the families, there really is hope that we can do something about this to disease," she said. "... I have so much belief in the research community and the new technologies that, if we put our minds to it and if we put our energies and efforts to it, we can find things. It's not impossible and I just want it to get done."

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The news comes two days before the premiere of the four-and-a-half-hour, two-night documentary event that chronicles the events leading to Williams being placed under the control of a court-ordered guardian in 2022. 

Where Is Wendy Williams? claims to be Williams' chance to retell the past from her perspective and share her story on her terms. Production on the documentary began in 2022, to chronicle the next stage of Williams' career and her plans to release a new podcast. But when the star entered a treatment facility, documentary production was forced to pivot.

In a statement to ET, Lifetime says that they do not know the origins of the statement released about Wendy's medical condition, adding that Wendy's family has no comment.

As Williams' manager, Will Shelby, previously told ET and reaffirms in the documentary, Williams checked into a treatment facility in April 2023 to confront her battle with alcohol addiction, a move prompted by concerns from her son about the potentially fatal consequences of her addiction.

In a preview of a Nightline sit-down interview with Deborah Roberts shown on Thursday's Good Morning America, Alex Finnie -- Williams' niece -- says that her aunt saw the project as a way to take ownership of her narrative.

"I understand that people will look at it, and -- some people will look at it and think that. But I will say this, first and foremost, my aunt is the executive producer of this documentary," she says. "And when I finally talked with her and I said to her, 'Aunt Wendy, why are -- do you wanna do this?' You know, 'You're -- you're -- you're clearly-- the health piece, all of that has to be addressed. Is now the right time?' And she said, 'Now is the perfect time because I wanna take ownership of my story.'"

Finnie is featured with other family members in the documentary, including the star's son, Kevin Hunter Jr., her sister, Wanda Williams, and other family members as they rally to support Wendy. 

Wanda empathizes with her sister's struggles, stating, "We all make choices in life. We all go through our challenges. She's still a person."

Meanwhile, Kevin criticizes the court-appointed guardian, asserting that they haven't effectively protected the former talk show host. Wanda echoes this sentiment, calling the system "broken."

"We are her family," Wanda declares, tears welling up, "and you tell me that I'm not capable of taking care of my sister. What would you do? What should I do?"

Roberts reports that Williams' family claims that they don't know where the aforementioned facility is but they have heard from her and that she sounds "much better."

Finnie tells the ABC News co-anchor that the family has been "shut out" by the State of New York, preventing them from being able to provide assistance to Williams. Still, she says she wishes nothing but the best for her aunt.

"The only person that comes out of this victorious, I hope, is my aunt. I know that ... in talking with her, she does hope to resume [her] career," she adds. "And my hope for her is that she does whatever she wants to do that makes her happy and that stays in the bounds of keeping her healthy."

Where is Wendy Williams?, a four-and-a-half-hour, two-night documentary event, will premiere Saturday, Feb. 24 and Feb. 25 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Lifetime.


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