The Big O: Oprah’s Obama Opera

Notice: I wrote back in February about Suzy Orman’s use of the “Oprah Effect” to promote her books. My only regret is that, because I wanted to focus on the copyright versus open source element, I did not make it clear that Oprah Winfrey was the vehicle for the million-copy giveaway. Despite the criticisms I have made, and which to her credit Oprah has allowed to be posted on her website, I’m more for her than against.

The story begins with this entry on The Drudge Report:

Oprah Winfrey may have introduced Democrat Barack Obama to the women of America — but the talkshow queen is not rushing to embrace the first woman on a Republican presidential ticket!

Oprah’s staff is sharply divided on the merits of booking Sarah Palin, sources tell the DRUDGE REPORT.

“Half of her staff really wants Sarah Palin on,” an insider explains. “Oprah’s website is getting tons of requests to put her on, but Oprah and a couple of her top people are adamantly against it because of Obama.”

One executive close to Winfrey is warning any Palin ban could ignite a dramatic backlash!

Drudge also claimed that both Oprah nor show producer Sheri Salata had “refused” to comment and that both had donated substantial amounts to Senator Barack Obama’s (Democrat, Illinois) campaign for the U.S. presidency.

So far, nothing much for me to comment on. It’s a straightforward case of political bias, but Oprah is only harming her own commercial credibility with some of her viewers, so what?

Here, the response by Harpo Productions, Oprah’s company, was like pouring petrol on a fire. Being posted to Oprah’s discussion community allowed a storm to erupt:

“The item in today’s Drudge Report is categorically untrue. There has been absolutely no discussion about having Sarah Palin on my show. At the beginning of this presidential campaign when I decided that I was going to take my first public stance in support of a candidate, I made the decision not to use my show as a platform for any of the candidates. I agree that Sarah Palin would be a fantastic interview, and I would love to have her on after the campaign is over.” – Oprah Winfrey, September 5, 2008

Now I decided to join in, focusing the point that either there had been no discussion, hinting at a Stalinist management style, or the statement was an obvious lie, which is bad for the “role model” business.

Here’s my response:

I don’t what’s worse, claiming that “there has been absolutely no discussion about having Sarah Palin on my show,” or taking a position I would find very unlikely if it were Geraldino Ferraro in 1984. Matt Drudge rarely gets his facts that badly wrong. I’m guessing someone mouthed off.

Is Oprah really serious in suggesting that NO ONE at Harpo even had a glimmer of a thought about whether this might be worth doing?

If that’s true, then I don’t understand how the narrow-mindedness of Harpo Productions can produce such a good show on those occasions I am able to see it (I live in the UK and normally have to travel to see the show). Is it possible that there is such “groupthink” and intolerance to something new, a Republican female Vice-Presidential candidate (and with a credible chance of winning, unlike Mrs Ferraro in 1984)? Frankly, if there is no one capable of thinking that Sarah Palin should be on the show, then the entire research and production team should be sacked for being a gormless bunch of “Yes Women” and “Yes Men.”

Fair enough if you decide, AFTER DISCUSSION, to not go ahead with a Palin interview before the election. But to employ staff who don’t even THINK about it? Your show is doomed if you act like a dinosaur, too slow-thinking to take advantage of an opportunity.

You’ve lost a lot of people who stood up for Oprah, as I did, when she said she wanted Barack Obama to win. I said Oprah was entitled to her view, but she would never shut off half the American people just for narrow-minded political bias. I even bought my fiancée the box set of Golden moments (and enjoyed a fair number of them). Seems like I was wrong.

Don’t compound a bad commerical and public relations decision. If Oprah won’t interview Sarah Palin, I don’t ever want to hear about
how Oprah stands for equality, fairness, or intelligent discussion. This is censorship and marginalization. It’s bad AND it’s not smart. Oprah should be neither.

At this point, there were about 2,000 comments. I looked back, after the lipstick on a pig story emerged.
I found a press release, which may have been updated since my first comment. This attempts to rebut the point, made by several hundred people, that Barack Obama was invited on Oprah Winfrey TWICE.
I enclose the text in case it gets updated.

Oprah’s Statement Regarding Gov. Sarah Palin on The Oprah Winfrey Show

“The item in today’s Drudge Report is categorically untrue. There has been absolutely no discussion about having Sarah Palin on my show. At the beginning of this presidential campaign when I decided that I was going to take my first public stance in support of a candidate, I made the decision not to use my show as a platform for any of the candidates. I agree that Sarah Palin would be a fantastic interview, and I would love to have her on after the campaign is over.” — Oprah Winfrey, September 5, 2008

Barack Obama has appeared on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” twice to discuss his books, once in January 2005 and once in October 2006. Both of Senator Obama’s appearances were made before he announced his candidacy and he has not appeared since.

Here is my response:

I’ve previously commented on how poor a commercial and politcal judgement it was to not invite Governor Palin on your show. I won’t pursue this point because you have over 5,000 comments on this issue to date. Things have moved on:

Now Senator Obama is saying in Virginia: “[hand in starts in pocket then moves towards face] but you know you can’t…you-you know you can put..er…[covers his face]…lipstick on a pig…[long pause waiting for audience to cheer]…[takes his hand off his face]…it’s still a pig! [looks around].” This isn’t private off-the-cuff remark, this is a calculated electon campaign statement.

How dare you portray yourself as a champion for women!

I would NEVER support a campaign filled with such hatred towards successful women, even if the candidate happened to be of the same ethnic origin as me and the women were from a different ethnic group.

I CANNOT BELIEVE that you could allow this behavior to go unchallenged! Is it one rule for friends and another for the rest of us?

I thought you might be better than this. I am appalled at the double standards. I criticised the Clinton campaign when it went racist out of desperation in the primaries. I now criticise the Obama campaign when it gets sexist and bullying. Where are you?

Let me guess, if Senator Obama loses in November, you’ll get him on the show and have a group weep about how “racist” Americans are, not to elect a man who cannot tolerate opposition from a mere woman. How progressive of you!

The attempt to imply in the press release that you only had Barack Obama on the show to promote his books is, well, less than credible. I’m thinking of your audience is not completely gullible and some people will switch channels. Are your ratings that good, even if your conscience isn’t?

It is a shame Senator Obama is emerging as such a deeply flawed character, as well as his unfortunate associations with his pastor and former associates. I hope to see an African-American president of the USA, on merit. I thought it would be Senator Obama. Not any more, he is like the nasty spiteful schoolyard bully that likes to makes girls cry.

And your silence as a backer of Senator Obama on this issue is more eloquent than a press release.

A community member called emileigh said:

This made-up lipstick controversy” is the latest false attack on Obama. The people who are pushing this are themselves either bearing false witness or just stupid. There is nothing more to say. You are one or the other on that issue.

As for the sexism thing, I do think that eventually even Sarah Palin will get sick of being used like this by the Republicans, after all she was the one who said that Hillary supporters were”whining” when they claimed sexism.

Here’s my response:

emileigh, thank you for your comment, but I saw the video. I repeat what I saw and heard:

“[hand in starts in pocket then moves towards face] but you know you can’t…you-you know you can put..er…[covers his face]…lipstick on a pig…[long pause waiting for audience to cheer]…[takes his hand off his face]…it’s still a pig! [looks around].”

Now if you are accusing me of making a “false attack on [Senator] Obama” I can only conclude that you are in denial of the evidence. My attack may be mistaken. It is not false. Senator Obama has said the words I quoted, unless someone has fabricated a video, which is certainly a technical possibility. If so, you may rest assured that I will be embarassed and furious. I did not make up this attack, Senator Obama did, by demeaning a female opponent for electoral gain.

The problem with your position is that it looks to me, like someone who doesn’t want to believe in anything bad about a man.

For the record, I wrote on my blog (House Rules prohibit me from posting a link, but check out “Antoine Clarke” and “Obama”), at the start of the primary process that I liked Barack Obama. I described him as “a winner.” I also criticised the Hillary Clinton campaign when it overstepped on the issue of race, noting that it seemed desperate.

I’ve changed my mind about Senator Obama on the basis of his campaign and some of the people who support him, especially some of the appalling personal smears against Sarah Palin.

None of this is relevant in the bigger picture of Oprah Winfrey. The statement that there was “no discussion” is a disgrace, not in political terms, but as media professionals, Oprah’s staff SHOULD be discussing whether or not to have the first Republican vice-presidential candiate who is a woman, on the show. The statement implies that no one has the imagination to even think “should we put Governor Palin on?” If you think that’s professional behavior by television show staff, then I must shake my head in disbelief. I stress that I respect Oprah’s right to refuse to interview someone. Just as I respect the right of people who don’t like it to switch channels.

I’m libertarian inclined and I’m starting a podcast series asking people to pick their three favorite books. Would I have a Communist on my show if I had questions to ask and I thought I’d get 5,000 comments? Or someone who disagrees with me on Global Warming, abortion rights and literary taste. You bet I would! If you want balance: have Geraldine Ferraro on.

For younger readers, Geraldine Ferraro (Democrat, New York) was the second woman to receive an electoral college vote, in 1984, as the first female candidate for vice president for the Democratic Party. Her ticket scored 13 with 540 for the Republicans. Of course, you won’t find it mentioned by the mainstream media, but the first woman to actually get an E.C. vote was Theodora (Tonie) Nathan (Libertarian, Oregon) in 1972. Bet she wouldn’t have got on Oprah either.

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One Response to “The Big O: Oprah’s Obama Opera”

  1. Paul Marks Says:

    Yes it is very sad that sisterhood has turned out to be so phony.

    Women were supposed to be going to show us men that there was a better way, a way of cooperation and decency rather than backstabbing and letting people down – but some women like O (who set themselves up as role models) seem to have forgotten that. A show that was supposed to reach out to all women (and really used to) and teach us men a few things – has now shut the door in the face of women who have the “wrong” politcs or are from the “wrong” ethnic group.

    All I can say is to repeat that it is very sad.

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