Tom Cruise Lashes Out at Matt Lauer

The star takes the Today host to task for being "glib" and not understanding Scientology

Photo: Dimitrios Kambouris/WireImage; Virgina Sherwood/NBC Universal

Tom Cruise is back on the attack as far as Brooke Shields is concerned, and the star grew testy during what grew into an outright debate over antidepressants and psychiatry with Today host Matt Lauer in an interview that aired on the NBC morning show Friday.

Wearing his signature black, Cruise faced Lauer’s questions as fiancée Katie Holmes looked on in the studio. In some initial softball questions, Cruise was asked how he’s feeling these days. “It’s a great time in my life. I’m engaged. I’m really happy. I can’t restrain myself,” he replied, breaking into a laugh.

After saying, “I still feel that I will talk about what I want to talk about, and I will not talk about what I don’t want to talk about,” Cruise was asked point blank whether his engagement to Katie Holmes is a publicity stunt for War of the Worlds.

Cruise replied: “There’s always cynics, always has been, always will be. I have never worried, Matt, about what other people think and what other people say. You can’t.”

Noting that Holmes is embracing Cruise’s religion of Scientology, Lauer then asked Cruise if he could be with someone who wasn’t a Scientologist. He replied: “It’s something you don’t understand. You can be a Christian and be a Scientologist. It is a religion in that it deals with the spirit, you as a spiritual being.”

Cruise also told Lauer he didn’t understand the effects of prescribing the drug Ritalin when the host asked Cruise about Brooke Shields, whom Cruise previously slammed for promoting medication to deal with postpartum depression.

Cruise’s tone grew fierce enough for Lauer (whom Cruise accused of being “glib”) to say, “I’m not prescribing Ritalin, Tom, and I’m not asking anyone else to do it.”

The tension between the two men grew when Lauer mentioned how psychiatry helped Shields. “I’ve never agreed with psychiatry, ever,” declared Cruise. “Before I was a Scientologist I never agreed with psychiatry, and when I started studying the history of psychiatry, I understood more and more why I didn’t believe in psychology.”

Cruise continued: “As far as the Brooke Shields thing, look, you have to understand, I really care about Brooke Shields – she’s a wonderful and talented woman, and I want her to do well, and I know psychiatry is a pseudoscience.”

After asserting that, psychiatric drugs only “mask the problem,” Cruise continued: “The thing that I’m saying about Brooke is that there’s misinformation, okay. And she doesn’t understand the history of psychiatry. She doesn’t understand in the same way that you don’t understand it, Matt.”

Cruise also insisted, “There is no such thing as a chemical imbalance,” and that through “vitamins and exercise” a person’s problems can be cured. “Drugs are not the answer,” said Cruise. “I think there’s a better quality of life.”

Last week, Shields told PEOPLE she was willing to put her public war of words with Cruise behind her after he had criticized her on Access Hollywood.

“I agree with him about his feeling on prescribing drugs to kids. We are in accord,” she tells PEOPLE. “I don’t think Ritalin should be prescribed to kids. Postpartum depression is a different matter. I think I’m more qualified to talk about that (than he is).”

Things were a bit less confrontational on Thursday night, when Cruise appeared on the Late Show with David Letterman. When Letterman asked Cruise about his engagement dinner in Paris, he said: “We ate chocolate. Just the desserts You know, there are times when you just stare at each other. It’s astounding.”

Said Letterman: “If she was marrying me, I would be lucky.”

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